Google hits back at FCC over Wi-Fi data collection fine

Google hits back at FCC over Wi-Fi data collection fine

Summary: Google has escaped a wiretap investigation, but it will keep the permanent black mark against its name for "impeding" an FCC probe, which it was fined $25,000 for.


Despite the FCC forcing Google to settle a fine after it "impeded and delayed" an investigation into its Street View operations, the search giant will avoid a federal investigation into violating U.S. wiretapping laws.

Bloomberg reports that Google filed papers with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where the search giant said the Justice Dept. would "not pursue a case for violation of the Wiretap Act".

Federal prosecutors decided last May that it would wrap up the investigation and call it quits, but it didn't stop Google having to cough up a $25,000 fine for holding back the investigation, which Google said it would pay.

While the search company admits guilt in the case, it added: "Google has cooperated fully with investigations around the globe," but concluded that it wanted to put the matter behind it.

That is, not before taking a few jabs at those who investigated it.

In attempting to map the street-level view of more than 30 countries, the company inadvertently collected wireless data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks as it drove around taking snaps of the routes its car was on. The search company wanted to map the location of these networks to aid location-based service mobile users of its services.

Among many local regulators, the UK's and Germany's data protection agencies both slammed Google for its Wi-Fi data collection, but neither agency imposed a fine.

The company collected emails, passwords, Web browsing history, and all kinds of other data from the unencrypted networks. Google must not have noticed its hard drive storage space filling up so quickly.

While Google shared the FCC's concern about the "protracted nature" of the investigation, Google said, it blamed the FCC for delaying the investigation through its "internal process".

"While Google disagrees with the premise of the (FCC) notice and many of its factual recitals, Google has determined to pay the forfeiture proposed in the notice in order to put this investigation behind it," Google said in a letter signed by Google counsel Ashton Johnston, the AFP news agency reported.

Google said it had "every interest in cooperating and did so fully at all times on a timetable discussed and agreed to by the Commission."

An FCC spokesperson speaking to AP said the agency stands behind its staff and their work.

While $25,000 is 'down the back of the sofa' money to Google, a permanent black mark remains on the company for admitting guilt in delaying the FCC's investigation.

Image credit: CBS Interactive/CNET.


Topics: Google, Government, Government US, Wi-Fi

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  • Still mad

    You got caught GOOG? Don't blame the Federal Government, you're the ones sneaking behind all our backs.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Amazes me...

      How Apple and MS get a bad rap for their so called evil business practices, but Google does something shady, it's never their fault. In this case, it's the people who didn't lock down their APs. When Google intentionally circumvented privacy mode in Safari for their own benefit, it's wasn't their fault, Apple should have fixed the vulnerability. I don't deny that actions by others could have prevented these things from happening, but that's kind of like blaming a rape victim because she was wearing a tight dress in a bad part of town, late at night.
  • 25 large!

    $25,000! Where will Google find the money!?
  • WiFi data collection fine???????

    ZDNet is going a little to far, tipping from misleading headlines to outright false ones.
    Sheesh - you guys never hear of yellow journalism, or you just don't care anymore?
    In my opinion, the justice department only imposed the fine to throw a bone to the stirred-up press and public howling for blood, since Google's actions were not illegal (i.e. Receiving unencrypted radio transmissions).
    Not that ZDNet should let the facts get in the way of good click bait.
  • WiFi data collection - searching old piles of junk along the sidewalk.

    Unsecured wifi is open to the public wifi and is the responsibility of the owner of that wifi router. Such hotspots supplied by businesses are open to the public (like McDonalds, Starbucks, most airports, etc). Snooping into such an unencrypted network should not have revealed any drives unless the router is configured incorrectly, so obtaining "passwords" would be a trivially stupid thing to do. Home users may have a wifi router combined with a hardline router (like a D-Link DL634), but these only connect each session to the cable router as a gateway. This is default behaviour. Whatever they collected would not be very useful, IMO, beyond finding hotspots provided by businesses.