Google Inc. may face a $25,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as Google allegedly ”impeded” and “delayed” a U.S. inquiry into its data collection. The government has initiated a series of regulatory probes of the company’s online privacy practices but says the search engine has failed to cooperate.
Google Inc. Investigated for Unlawful Wireless Data Collection
For three years starting in May 2007, Google Inc. reportedly has been collecting what is known as payload data for its Street View location service, which includes e-mail and text messages, passwords, internet-usage history and other highly-sensitive personal information.
According to the government, the company has been intercepting and storing millions of wireless communications from Wi-Fi routers. Depending on what types of information the government can prove was collected — and how it was collected — Google may be guilty of violating the federal wireless act.
This is not the first time Google Inc. has come under scrutiny for data collection methods that infringe on consumer privacy and impose risks like identity theft.
Just last year, the company agreed to 20 years of independent privacy audits that would settle claims by the Federal Trade Commission that Google had deceived its users and violated its own privacy policies with its use of the Buzz social network.
FCC Accuses Google of Delaying Investigation
In 2010, the FCC initiated an investigation to take a closer look at Google’s data collection practices, but the agency says the search engine has not cooperated in a timely fashion.
Google reportedly didn’t fully respond to a December 2010 query to find and submit e-mails, identify employees and verify the accuracy of its submissions until last September. As a result, the FCC plans to seek the maximum penalty against the search engine, spokeswoman Tammy Sun explained in an interview yesterday.
Google Inc. acknowledged that it made a mistake by including code in its software that collected payload data, but despite its error believes they did nothing illegal. The government too said that it’s not sure if the search engine has broken the law yet as there isn’t a clear precedent for this circumstance.
Currently, the FCC says it is not yet attempting to penalize Google for the data collection methods, but does want to see if consumer online privacy rights have been violated. In the meantime, they plan to move forward in seeking a penalty for Google’s attempts at delaying the investigation.