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Lawmakers press FTC on Google Street View privacy lapse

Key lawmakers sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, asking if it is investigating a privacy lapse by Google in its collection of private data through its Street View application.

Reps. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), co-chairmen of the House privacy caucus, sent the letter Wednesday to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz after Google's admission last Friday that it had collected data from residential WiFi networks while compiling photos for its Street View application. The data, as reported in previous posts, went beyond names and addresses and has angered European regulators who have called the episode an invasion of personal privacy.

An FTC representative said the agency received the letter and would respond to the lawmakers. She didn't elaborate further.

Google said in a statement: "We're working with relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns."

Google said it had deleted data collected in Ireland over the weekend. But the lawmakers wanted to know what kind of information was captured and who was accessing it.

Barton and Markey asked Leibowitz to answer the following questions:

1. Is the Federal Trade Commission investigating this matter?
2. What is the commission’s understanding of the type and nature of information collected and how is the captured data stored? Who had access to this data?
3. Do Google’s data collection practices with respect to Wi-Fi networks violate the public’s reasonable expectation of privacy? Did Google collect passwords associated with Internet usage by consumers?
4. Do Google’s actions form the basis of an unfair or deceptive act or practice that constitutes harm to consumers? Please explain your response.
5. Are Google’s actions illegal under federal law? If these allegations warrant commission action, does the commission believe it currently has authority to take necessary action? If not, please describe legislative language you would recommend to enable the commission to act appropriately.

By Cecilia Kang  |  May 19, 2010; 3:19 PM ET
Categories:  FTC , Google  
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Comments

Oh, please. Any information they recorded could be read by ANYONE passing by, including actual identity thieves. If you don't want people knowing your passwords, don't transmit them through the air unencrypted!

They didn't gather any private information, so there's no privacy issue and they've done absolutely nothing wrong. There's no law against wardriving, and there never should be.

Open Wi-Fi had so much potential and it's being squandered by idiotic laws and ignorant paranoia. Before long, it'll be against the law to share your Wi-Fi with your guests and neighbors, because people are too stupid to turn on their router's password and the government will need to "protect them from themselves".

Posted by: argh2 | May 20, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

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