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Google Hears It From Hill Over Street View Revelations - Broadcasting & Cable

Google Hears It From Hill Over Street View Revelations

Letter from Rep. Barrow follows release of unredacted version of FCC report
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Rep. John Barrow of Georgia is the latest member of Congress to express concern over Google's Street view Wi-Fi data collection.

Barrow sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page Thursday urging the company to cooperate with government investigations of what Google in 2010 called inadvertent collection of payload data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

The letter came in the wake of Google's release of an unredacted version of an FCC report on Street View that revealed the data was not collected inadvertently, though Google still maintains the collection was not illegal.

"We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals," Google said in a statement to B&C/Multichannel News. "While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, we agree with the FCC's conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us."

According to that unredacted FCC report, an unidentified Google engineer wrote software to "deliberately capture payload data" -- e-mails, text messages -- as part of the "wardriving" effort to collect data -- signal strength, access points -- for location-based services by driving the streets in specially outfitted cars to located wireless LAN's using Wi-Fi.

The FCC report concluded it could not find Google had violated any of its rules, in part because there was no precedent for applying rules against wiretapping to Wi-Fi, and partly because Google was only collecting information from unencrypted networks, and did not do anything with encrypted info delivered over those unsecured nets. The FCC did fine the company $25,000 for impeding the investigation, which Google says it did not do.

Earlier this week, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the congressional privacy caucus, called for Hill hearings on the issue and said of the unredacted revelations: "Google's motto has always been 'Do No Evil.' It should also be 'Do No Eavesdropping.' Google needs to fully explain to Congress and the public what it knew about the collection of data through its Street View program, why it impeded the FCC investigation and what it is doing to ensure appropriate privacy safeguards are in place to protect consumer's personal information. I once again call for an immediate Congressional hearing to get to the bottom of this very serious situation."

On a related note, Markey sent a letter to nine wireless carriers Thursday asking when and how they are sharing personal information with law enforcement, asking, among other things, whether they have evidence of police departments misusing mobile phone location-based info and whether they are being paid for that information.

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