The Federal Trade Commission has ended its probe into the gathering of data by Google Street View – including the collection of personal e-mails, passwords, and Internet browsing history – that were sent over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Google came under fire earlier this year after the company announced an inadvertent capture of Wi-Fi signals while its vehicles were taking pictures for its Street View service.
The FTC said its concerns over the breach of consumers’ privacy were mitigated by Google’s promises to increase employee training regarding privacy matters and not to use any of the data it collected to market its products or services. “This assurance is critical to mitigate the potential harm to consumers from the collection of payload data,” David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, wrote in a letter.
Mr. Vladeck also urged the company to develop and implement reasonable procedures, “including collecting information only to the extent necessary to fulfill a business purpose, disposing of the information no longer necessary to accomplish that purpose, and maintaining the privacy and security of information collected and stored.” The decision was met with criticism by privacy advocates. “We’re not sure exactly why the FTC failed to act, but we intend to find out,” Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the E-Commerce Times.
To read Mr. Vladeck’s letter closing the inquiry, click here.
Why it matters: Scrutiny over Google’s Street View service is still ongoing. Google faces inquiries by a coalition of 30 state attorneys general and possible prosecutions in Europe. The United Kingdom recently launched a new investigation that could result in fines for the company, while investigations continue in France, Germany, and Spain. Additionally, the FCC is currently investigating whether Google violated communications laws through its street-mapping service.