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FCC Investigating Google’s Street View Service

November 11, 2010

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is investigating Google Inc.’s “Street View” service to see if the company’s collection of data violated federal laws.

Google is facing multiple investigations in many countries because of the data collected by its cars photographing streets around the world. 

Google said last month that it was “mortified” to learn its Wi-Fi equipped Street View cars mistakenly collected entire emails and passwords.

“In light of their public disclosure, we can now confirm that the Enforcement Bureau is looking into whether these actions violate the Communications Act,” Michele Ellison, chief of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, said on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Internet search giant said the company is sorry for mistakenly collecting data from unencrypted networks and is cooperating with regulators.

“We want to delete the data as soon as possible and will continue to work with the authorities to determine the best way forward, as well as to answer their further questions and concerns,” the spokesman said.

Google hopes to mitigate future privacy concerns by appointing a director of privacy for engineering and product management.  This position would hold the responsibilities of training key employees on privacy and building a formal privacy review into the early phases of new initiatives.

The FCC wrote in May that Google could face fines of up to $50,000 if it is found to have intercepted Wi-Fi transmissions for commercial or financial gain.

Google still faces inquiries in other countries over the Street View data as well as from over 30 U.S. state prosecutors.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ended its investigation into the Google Street View application last month.  It said the reasons for halting its investigation were recent moves made by the company to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Spain’s data protection authority has filed suit against Google and the Czech data protection authority has banned the company from taking Street View pictures.

Street View was launch in 2006 and it allows users to take a virtual “walk” through cities like New York, Paris or Hong Kong.

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