In light of the Federal Communications Commission dropping its investigation of Google's Street View's eavesdropping practices that were uncovered in 2010 and releasing a very redacted version of the interim report that was released on Friday, Consumer Watchdog has issued a statement demanding that the FCC release an uncensored version of the report.
The FCC decided to fine Google $25,000 for the company's avoidance of answering any inquiries about what private information it was secretly sopping up from unsecured wi-fi networks as the Google Street View car drove down countless streets around the world capturing imagery for the Google Maps service. Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group, is filing a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain an uncensored copy of the document and is considering what additional legal action may be necessary.
Google has said that the creepy data collection by the Street View car was not authorized and was actually the result of a rogue developer, although that person is claiming that other people at Google knew about the data-sponging.
"We're pleased that the FCC called Google out for its blatantly obstructionist violations, but $25,000 is chump change to an Internet giant like Google," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. "By willfully violating the Commission's orders, Google has managed to continue to hide the truth about Wi-Spy. Google wants everyone else's information to be accessible, but in a demonstration of remarkable hypocrisy, stonewalls and keeps everything about itself secret."
It's fair to say that Google basically got off with what, in Google terms of money, adds up to the severity of a parking ticket. The lack of stern penalties from the FCC has Consumer Watchdog calling for continued investigation to get to the bottom of what they're calling the "Wi-Spy scandal."
"Google's claim that its intrusive behavior was by 'mistake' stretches all credulity. In fact, Google has demonstrated a history of pushing the envelope and then apologizing when its overreach is discovered," said Simpson. "Willfully obstructing a federal investigation shows Google has something to hide. Given its recent record of privacy abuses, there is absolutely no reason to trust anything the Internet giant claims about its data collection policies."
Consumer Watchdog said the FCC should make all the details of its investigation clear to the public. "There is no reason for the FCC to censor its Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture," said Simpson. "The public has a right to know as much as possible about what happened with Wi-Spy. Google has been the one to delay and hide information. I cannot fathom why the FCC has gone this route."
While the FCC may have rested its investigation of Google, the case is still being investigated by a group of more than 30 state attorneys general. Additionally, a class action suit has been filed in a federal district court.