Consumer Watchdog Demands FCC Release Uncensored Google Wi-Spy Decision, Decries Internet Giant’s Hypocrisy For Deliberately Obstructing Investigation

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today demanded that the Federal Communications Commission release an uncensored version of its highly redacted decision to fine Google $25,000 for deliberately impeding and delaying its investigation of the Wi-Spy scandal.

The 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 admitted that its Street View cars sucked up communications from private Wi-Fi networks as its cars traveled streets in more than 30 countries. Google claims it gathered the data by mistake.

“We find that Google apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Commission orders to produce certain information and documents that the Commission required for its investigation,” the FCC said.  The 25-page Notice of Apparent Liability For Forfeiture was highly redacted.  The FCC gave no reason for censoring the document.

“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.”

“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.”

The Wi-Spy scandal is still being investigated by a group of more than 30 state attorneys general.  A class action suit has been filed in federal district court.

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Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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