[JURIST] The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] on Wednesday announced that it has ended an inquiry into internal policies and procedures at Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] that led to the company inadvertently collecting data on unsecured wireless networks while photographing streetscapes for its Street View maps program. In a letter [text, PDF] sent to Google’s counsel, FTC Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection David Vladeck admonished the company for not knowing about the data collection until responding to a request for information and stated that there was a breakdown in the company’s internal review process. Vladeck went on to state that, in light of Google’s recent announcement [text] that it was addressing these concerns by appointing new staff and incorporating a formal privacy review process on developing technology and the fact that Google assured the FTC it did not use the data it had accidentally collected, the FTC was ending its inquiry into the matter.
Google’s announcement had the opposite effect in the UK, where a statement that the company had collected entire e-mails, URLs and passwords caused the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) [official website] to re-open its investigation [JURIST report]. The company could potentially face a fine of up to 500,000 pounds (USD $793,950). Other countries, including Canada, Australia and Spain [JURIST reports] have also launched their own investigations into the privacy breach. Earlier this month, Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart announced that Google was in violation [JURIST report] of the country’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act [text, PDF] (PIPEDA). In July, the Australian Privacy Commissioner announced [JURIST report] that its investigation revealed Google’s actions violated the Australia Privacy Act [government backgrounder]. In response to these findings, Google issued an apology on its official Australian blog [text], and agreed to conduct a privacy impact assessment on any new Street View data collection activities in Australia and regularly consult with the privacy commissioner about personal data collection activities arising from significant product launches. In August, the South Korean National Police Agency (SKNPA) [official website, in Korean] raided the Google South Korean headquarters [JURIST report] in connection with accusations that the company had been illegally acquiring user data.
Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.