Google dodges two bullets as Wi-Spy questions linger

Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Google dodges two bullets as Wi-Spy questions linger

    Google’s success at forging non-adversarial relationships with government regulators in the Anglo-American world is paying  dividends for the Internet giant.

    Wednesday the British information commissioner in London declined to fine the Internet company for privacy violations in the United Kingdom for its Wi-Spying activities.  The British action came a week after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission notified Google that it would drop its investigation of breaches of privacy by its Street View cars for gathering communications from private Wi-Fi networks.

    Authorities in both countries apparently have accepted Google’s written apologies and assurances that its employees will not collect data from private wireless networks.

    The British commissioner could have imposed fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The FTC could have continued investigating alleged abuses now under official probe in several countries and  by  multi-state task force of state attorneys general.

    The FTC’s not quite stern letter to Google (download here) left one key question left unresolved:

    Why did the Google’s Street View software automatically collect so-called “payload data” neighborhoods? Payload data refers to information sent over unsecured networks, including private email and passwords.

    The FTC accepted Google’s statement that the collection was “inadvertent.”

    And why did the “inadvertent” happen?

    Neither the FTC nor the public has the answer to that question yet.

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