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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Update: Republican Pushes FCC for Details on Google Street View Controversy

    A couple years ago, Google came under considerable fire for its Street View product, where the online services giant photographed homes and other buildings in numerous countries as part of its online mapping service, as individuals said the photos invaded their privacy. Then, last year, Google announced that, for more than three years — in more than 30 countries — it had been “mistakenly collecting” personal data from open WiFi networks as its vehicles roamed the streets taking photos for its Street View mapping service.  At the time, Google said that the data could include e-mail messages, passwords, or Web site visits. There was an uproar over the privacy implications. The governments of various countries began to investigate the data collection.

    Later, the company admitted the data collected — without individuals’ knowledge or consent — did include entire e-mails and passwords. The online services giant faced questions from states, and Google reached a settlement with Connecticut over the data collection. In October, the Federal Trade Commission announced that (pdf) it has closed an investigation into possible privacy breaches by Google’s Street View after the company pledged to stop gathering consumers’ e-mail, passwords and other personal data.

    The Federal Communications Commission also began investigating Google’s Street View data collection. Now, the Hill reports, Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) is pressuring the FCC to open up about its investigation of Google.

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last year that it was investigating the breach, but has yet to unveil any findings.

    Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) in a letter Wednesday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he is concerned the FCC “has not yet shared any of the facts of this case with Congress.”

    He urged FCC Genachowski “to complete a full review expeditiously and provide a thorough report. This information will allow Congress to determine whether [legislative] action is necessary to prevent such a breach of private information in the future.” [...]

    In response to the Graves letter, a Google spokesman said: “As we have said before, we are sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks.”

    The spokesman added that Google stopped collecting data when it realized what happened, and that it notified authorities. Google is working with authorities and wants to delete the data as soon as possible, said the spokesman, who noted that Google has not used the data.

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