The Federal Trades Communication has fined Google $25,000 for impeding investigators’ efforts to examine the company’s data collection efforts, the New York Times recently reported.
In 2010, the company accidentally collected the user names and passwords of unprotected Wi-Fi networks as it used cars to sweep streets and neighborhoods to improve its mapping capabilities. At the time, Google stated that it was “mortified by what happened,” and promised not to use the data and to insert firm controls to keep it from happening again. Though the data remains unused, Google has yet to destroy it as it waits orders from a federal judge to do so.
Yet during the investigation, Google routinely failed to respond to requests for emails and refused to identify the employees involved in the snafu, according to the FCC. The FCC noted that the main architect of the data collection had invoked Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
The idea that the world’s largest search engine had no convenient way to search its employee email was a difficult pill to swallow, the FCC said.
“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,’” the report said.
Google, on the other hand, contended that the company “had worked in good faith to answer the F.C.C.’s questions throughout the inquiry, and we’re pleased that they have concluded that we complied with the law,” a company spokeswoman said.
Ultimately, the FCC ruled the data collection was legal because the data was not encrypted.
With Google’s $10.6 billion in earned revenue this quarter, the $25,000 fine is barely large enough to make a wish cast down a well. Yet it will be loud enough to echo the Grand Canyon when it comes to privacy concerns. Google recently changed its privacy policies that let’s it know just about everything about you, important for its advertising model as it goes head to head against Facebook. The government is listening, and Google has been warned.