Google Street View cars are in news for all the wrong reasons. Google has been slapped with a $25,000 fine by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Google tried to impede the investigation of its Street View cars, which had inadvertently been collecting data like emails and passwords from unencrypted Wi Fi networks.
What is the value of $25,000 for a search behemoth like Google? According to its profits of $9.7bn/£6.1bn for the year 2011, the fine is equal to the amount it makes in 18.5 seconds!
Ironically, the FCC wrote in its report that “given the totality of the circumstances of this case and our precedent in other failure-to-respond cases,” it found the $25,000 fine to be appropriate.
FCC also informed that the data collection that took place from May 2007 to May 2010 was technically legal because the information was unencrypted.
An FCC took the opportunity to educate the public about the importance of encrypted data and released a consumer tip sheet this Monday.
So, what made the FCC give this slap on the wrist to Google?
Google has admitted in 2010 that its street-mapping vehicles, Street View cars, had accidentally sniffed personal data. While collecting data for its street view, the cars would also inadvertently gather passwords and emails floating through unencrypted Wi Fi networks in the area they passed through. Google insisted this was ‘accidental’.
FCC got to investigating this undue slurp of data by Google. The watchdog was miffed to find that Google, as per the reports by FCC, “deliberately impeded and delayed” a probe into the Street View data slurp. FCC slapped the fine on Google for this.
However, Google could not be held responsible for the collection of the passwords, emails and other personal data because the data had been acquired through unencrypted networks.
Google agreed to pay up (what is 18.5 seconds in the life of Google?).
A Google spokesperson said, “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.”
The FCC further reported that Google hampered the investigation into the matter by refusing to reveal the employee/s involved in the slurp. Furthermore, Google also declined to hand over emails to help the FCC probe the matter further.
The commission was reported to state, “Although a world leader in digital search capability, Google took the position that searching its employees’ e-mail ‘would be a time-consuming and burdensome task’”.
It was then found out that the person who was responsible for the street cars’ sniffing data invoked his Fifth Amendment Right. This right gives any accused the right to remain silent on the matter if opening his mouth would result in self-incrimination.