• The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau announced last week that it is investigating Google, Inc., regarding the collection of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks by its Street View vehicles. Google’s acknowledgment on October 22 that, contrary to its earlier suggestions, some of the captured data may include complete e-mails and other information in large enough blocks to be meaningful has spurred renewed interest in Street View. “In light of their public disclosure, we can now confirm that the Enforcement Bureau is looking into whether these actions violate the Communications Act. As the agency charged with overseeing the public airwaves, we are committed to ensuring that the consumers affected by this breach of privacy receive a full and fair accounting,” Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said in a statement. Just last month, the FTC concluded a separate inquiry, attributing the decision to Google’s “commitments” to improve internal processes for assuring privacy protections, to “delete the inadvertently collected payload data as soon as possible,” and to not use the data for any Google product or service “now or in the future.” Google’s data-collection practices have also come under scrutiny from some key lawmakers in Congress, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D), who was elected to the US Senate earlier this month, is also leading a multi-state investigation of Google. Authorities in a number of other countries, including those in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Canada, have also announced investigation and some have concluded that Google violated privacy laws.
  • Canada’s privacy commissioner plans seek increased enforcement authority next year. “I am probably going to ask for greater powers, in terms of having new tools,” Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said on an American Bar Association teleconference. The legal requirement to prove of concrete harm have “generally led to very few sanctions” in private lawsuits and regulatory action, Stoddart said. “Self-regulation in all areas has its limits,” Stoddart said. Canadian law allows some action concerning behavioral advertising, but “we may need to have some kind of legislation” to ensure that consumers know when and why they're tracked online and can opt out, she said.