The United States telecommunications regulator – The Federal Communication Commission - has fined our favourite - like there was another – search behemoth, Google $US25,000 for stalling an investigation into its Street View mapping project. The Federal Communication Commission - FCC – announced the penalty on the weekend as it said it was dropping the probe into whether Street View cars had gathered data from private wireless networks. However, the FCC said it could not accuse the internet giant of breaking US law.
The FCC contended that Google delayed the investigation by ignoring requests for internal information such as emails related to Street View data collection and the names of employees who authorised or reviewed it. ”For many months, Google deliberately impeded and delayed the bureau’s investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information,” FCC enforcement bureau chief Paula Michele Ellison said in a written report.
Google spokesperson Niki Fenwick said the technology giant had co-operated with the inquiry “in good faith”. ”We worked in good faith to answer the FCC’s questions throughout the inquiry, and we’re pleased that they have concluded that we complied with the law,” Ms Fenwick said.
The FCC began the investigation in late 2010 after Google announced that Street View cars taking photographs of cities in more than 30 countries had inadvertently gathered data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems.
Information collected by the cars included passwords, emails and other data transmitted wirelessly through unprotected routers, the FCC said.
Google has since stopped using Street View cars to collect the Wi-Fi data, which was used to provide location-based services such as driving directions in Google Maps and other products.
Street View, which was launched in 2006, lets users view panoramic street scenes on Google Maps and take a virtual “walk” through cities such as New York, Paris or Hong Kong.
“Although a world leader in search capability, Google took the position that searching its employees’ email ‘would be a time consuming and burdensome task’,” Ms Ellison said.
Google gave similar reasoning for not wanting to dig up names or statements from workers who authorised the data collection or analysed information gathered, the FCC said.
A key engineer behind the data-collection software was said to have exerted his legal right not to make any statements on the record to investigators.
“Google’s level of cooperation with this matter fell way short of what we expect and require,” Ms Ellison said.