Unanswered Questions in FCC’s Google Case

One of the most audacious projects ever to come out of Google was the plan to photograph and map the inhabited world, one block at a time. But a report over the weekend from federal regulators has rekindled questions over exactly what the company was doing — questions the search giant has spent years trying not to answer.

The Federal Communications Commission censured Google for obstructing an inquiry into the Street View project, which had collected Internet communications from potentially millions of unknowing households as specially equipped cars drove slowly by. But the investigation, described in an interim report, was left unresolved because a critical participant, the Google engineer in charge of the project, cited his Fifth Amendment right and declined to talk. It is unclear who else at Google might have known about the data gathering, or when they might have known. Google maintains that the data gathering was unauthorized, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, but the engineer is maintaining that other people at the company knew about it. “I appreciate that the FCC sanctioned Google for not cooperating in the investigation, but the much bigger problem is the pervasive and covert surveillance of Internet users that Google undertook over a three-year period,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He said that he would ask the Justice Department to investigate Google over wiretapping.


Unanswered Questions in FCC’s Google Case