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Google says it did not impede Street View probe; DOJ probe done

April 26, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • Google logo at the search giant's New York office
Google logo at the search giant's New York office (Mark Lennihan / Associated…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google says it will pay the $25,000 fine imposed by the Federal Communication Commission but disputes the regulator’s contention that it obstructed a probe of its Street View program.

“Google has cooperated fully with investigations around the globe regarding this matter, acting in good faith at all times,” the Mountain View, Calif., company said Thursday in a letter to the FCC. "While Google disagrees with the premise of the 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."

The search giant also revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice had already completed its investigation into whether Google violated wiretapping laws when it collected and stored data from unprotected wireless networks while operating specially equipped cars that cruise the streets taking photographs for its mapping service.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, the Washington advocacy group that filed the original complaint with the FCC over Google's controversial data-collection practices, sent a letter Monday to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. calling the FCC's probe insufficient. A person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly said the DOJ wrapped up its investigation in May 2011.

“The DOJ had access to Google employees, reviewed the key documents, and concluded that it would not pursue a case for violation of the Wiretap Act,” Google said in its letter to the FCC.

The FCC also said it did not find evidence that the company broke eavesdropping laws in collecting Internet data from millions of unknowing U.S. households. It proposed a $25,000 fine on April 13, alleging Google stonewalled its investigators.

In a statement, the FCC spokesperson Tammy Sun said: “The commission stands behind the work of the career staff who investigated Google’s secret collection of personal passwords, emails, and other private data through its Street View project.  In promising to pay the bureau’s penalty, the company has rightly admitted wrongdoing.  Going forward, important concerns about the privacy of unencrypted wi-fi communications remain. That’s why the commission recently released a new consumer tip sheet highlighting the vulnerabilities of unencrypted networks and how consumers can better protect themselves.”

EPIC is also asking the FCC for an unredacted version of its report on the Street View probe.

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