Washington Post: Satisfied with Google’s promise to restrain Street View, FTC drops privacy-breach probe
Google has come 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. Now, the Washington Post reports that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has closed an investigation into possible privacy breaches by Google’s Street View. (Here’s the letter from the FTC to Google.)
The federal government has ended an inquiry into a privacy breach involving Google’s Street View service, satisfied with the company’s pledge to stop gathering e-mail, passwords and other information from residential WiFi networks as it rolls through neighborhoods.
Wednesday’s decision by the Federal Trade Commission is a sharp contrast with the reaction of regulators in Europe. The United Kingdom has launched a new investigation into Google’s collection of unencrypted WiFi data, exposing the company to potential fines. Germany told Google to mark its Street View cars that take pictures of neighborhoods and homes. The Czech Republic banned Google from expanding its mapping software program.
The differences highlight an increasing gap between regulators in the United States, where the freewheeling Internet culture has birthed many of the social networking sites and search engines used worldwide, and governments in Europe and Canada, which tend to be much more aggressive about privacy. […]
The result is a rising number of trans-Atlantic conflicts. The Obama administration has been criticized for its efforts to allow law enforcement to surveil Internet networks, for instance. In addition, the European Union is pushing back against U.S. demands to share data about U.S.-bound air passengers. […]
U.S. regulators are working on suggestions for how far companies can go with information they collect, store and share about Internet users. Those suggestions, to be released in a report by the FTC in the coming weeks, could result in a legislative road map for Congress. But because of the agency’s limited rule-making power, the FTC’s report could have limited impact, privacy groups fear.
The advocates also argue that U.S. companies have a strong voice in debates at the FTC and on Capitol Hill over privacy legislation. As a result, critics say, the U.S. government has been more sensitive to how privacy regulation or laws could affect the businesses of Web sites like Facebook and Amazon and media sites, such as The Washington Post and CNN.com. […]
In a letter to Google on Wednesday, the FTC said privacy concerns from its Street View cars’ data collection were allayed when the search giant announced that it would beef up privacy training for employees and not use any collected data for any Google products or services. “This assurance is critical to mitigate the potential harm to consumers from the collection of payload data,” David Vladeck, head of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, wrote in closing the review.