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Consumer Watchdog Counters Google’s FOIA Objections in FCC Wi-Spy Probe

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Thu, May 17, 2012 at 10:33 am

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Consumer Watchdog Counters Google’s FOIA Objections in FCC Wi-Spy Probe
Wants Release of Underlying Documents in Commission’s Investigation

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today countered Google’s objections to the Federal Communications Commission’s release of detailed documents about the Commission’s investigation

of how Google hacked into private Wi-Fi networks and sought broad disclosure of the documents’ contents.

Consumer Watchdog has filed a request for the significant

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documents related to the FCC’s investigation. Google has opposed much of the request, claiming that portions are commercially sensitive or private personal information. “The FCC’s notice of a $25,000 fine to Google for obstructing the investigation makes it clear that deciding to use Street View Cars to ‘war drive’ and hack into Wi-Fi networks was a deliberate decision involving a number of people,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project. “We need the underlying documents in the investigation to understand what in Google’s culture allowed the Wi-Spy scandal to happen.”

“In seeking to block our request Google is showing what’s become its predictable hypocrisy,” said Simpson. “Their mission is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible, but when it is information about them, Google becomes a black box.” Consumer Watchdog’s response noted that the FCC has held that information that is likely to cause “mere embarrassment in the marketplace or reputational injury” does not warrant protection from disclosure.

“Clearly Google is embarrassed and that is why they are stonewalling,” said Simpson. Consumer Watchdog noted that Google had filed a patent application for mapping Wi-Fi hotspots to determine geolocation of mobile devices and questioned how information about those mapping efforts could be considered commercially sensitive when they were revealed in the patent application.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s response to the FCC here

The Wi-Spy scandal is still being investigated by a group of more than 30 state attorneys general. Consumer Watchdog attorneys are counsel for the plaintiffs in a federal class action suit against Google in the Wi-Spy case.

Read Google’s Wi-Fi mapping patent application here

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 349 posts on Inside Google.

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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