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Google Privacy Critics Call for DOJ Investigation

Privacy advocates are pressing for an investigation into Google after a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) failed to find evidence the search engine giant broke the law in collecting data through its Street View service.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) penned a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder requesting the U.S. Department of Justice launch an investigation into Google. EPIC filed the original complaint with the FCC regarding Google's controversial Street View data-collection practices.

Street View Privacy“Over a three-year period, Google, Inc., deployed hundreds of cars on roadways across the United States, outfitted with digital cameras and WiFi receivers, to capture both images available from public roadways and the private communications of Internet users,” EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg wrote in the letter. Google’s “Street View” program has given rise to numerous investigations and lawsuits, but none have adequately determined whether Google’s conduct violated the federal Wiretap Act.”

The letter follows a decision by the FCC to fine Google $25,000 for obstructing its investigation into the allegations surrounding Street View. However, “by the agency’s own admission, the investigation conducted was inadequate and did not address the applicability of federal wiretap law to Google's interception of emails, usernames, passwords, browsing histories, and other personal information," Rotenberg contended.

Rep. Edward Markey, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, recently called the $25,000 fine "a mere slap on the wrist for Google."

“Google's Street View cars drove right over consumers' personal privacy while cruising city streets and neighborhoods,” he said in a statement. “Consumers saw their Wi-Fi morph into 'Spy-Fi'. The FCC was correct to fine Google for this breach…However, I am concerned that more needs to be done to fully investigate the company's understanding of what happened when consumer data was collected without their knowledge or permission."

Google would not comment on EPIC’s request, but said the company disagreed with the FCC’s contention it obstructed its investigation and will be filing a response.

"As the FCC notes in their report,” the company said in a statement, “we provided all the materials the regulators felt they needed to conclude their investigation and we were not found to have violated any laws…It was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we believe we did nothing illegal. We have worked with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns."

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