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FCC Launches Probe Into Google Street View Privacy Breach

google street view car
A few weeks ago, Google publicly admitted that its Street View cars had inadvertently collected personal data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks, and promised to implement tighter security measures to prevent future breaches. The company's mea culpa was enough to satisfy the Federal Trade Commission, which closed its investigation into the incident shortly after the announcement. The FCC, on the other hand, isn't quite ready to take Google at its word.

"Last month, Google disclosed that its Street View cars collected passwords, e-mails and other personal information wirelessly from unsuspecting people across the country," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison told Ars Technica. "In light of their public disclosure, we can now confirm that the Enforcement Bureau is looking into whether these actions violate the Communications Act." Ellison went on to say that it was the FCC's duty to guarantee that all consumers affected by Google's mistake "receive a full and fair accounting."

The Commission's decision has already won the support of Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and ranking member of the House Commerce Committee. "The Federal Communications Commission is rightly investigating whether Google's Street View cars steamrolled privacy laws in pursuit of mapping information," Markey said in a statement. "I commend the Commission for taking action -- the potential for this technology to be used for drive-by snooping into people's personal lives is not something to be taken lightly."

It's not surprising that the FCC would choose to take action, if only to keep up political appearances. Privacy breaches certainly shouldn't be taken lightly, and many consumers will likely derive some sense of security from the federal investigation. But, as long as Google remains as forthright and cooperative as it's been thus far, the fallout, if any, should be minimal.

Tags: FCC, FederalGovernment, ftc, google, government, investigation, politics, privacy, StreetView, top