A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report said that the Google engineer who created a program to collect personal data from people’s home wireless networks told at least two other company employees.
The FCC released a heavily redacted version of the report April 13. Google later released the report with only names and telephone numbers blacked out, Reuters reported.
Google Street View was created in 2006 and is one of the most popular features provided by the company. It allows users to see the ground view of streets in many areas with road-access around the world.
Street View cars, cruising the streets to collect images and location data, have also been collecting personal data as they pass by houses with unencrypted wireless networks. The FCC’s investigation into the practice, dubbed “Wi-Spy” by the media, began in 2010.
Google has said that it inadvertently stored personal data, called “payload data,” which included passwords, website requests, and email messages. According the FCC report, managers of the Street View project have consistently said they were not aware of the practice.
However, in the full report, the FCC asserts that Google did know about the payload data collection. “Engineer Doe specifically told two engineers working on the project, including a senior manager, about collecting payload data. Engineer Doe intended to collect, store, and review payload data for possible use in other Google projects,” according to Reuters.
The FCC ultimately conceded that Google did not break any U.S. laws, but said Google did not cooperate with the probe as fast as it would have liked. Google was fined $25,000 for impeding the FCC investigation.
Google agreed to pay the fine, but responded with a 14-page letter to the FCC criticizing the agency’s handling of the investigation.
“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 statement obtained by AFP.
According to Google, it is the FCC that was responsible for the delay in the process. “Google had every interest in cooperating and did so fully at all times, on a timetable discussed and agreed to by the Commission.”
The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have already closed their cases regarding Street View.
Google said it has stopped collecting personal data from Wi-Fi networks when conducting its Street View sweeps.
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