The federal regulators have slapped Google with a fine of $25,000 for impeding the investigation into the collection of wireless network data for its Street View project.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imposed a fine late Friday, saying the internet search giant had collected personal information without permission and then blocked the FCC's investigation by refusing to reveal the names of engineers associated with the project.
"Google refused to identify any employees or produce any e-mails. The company could not supply compliant declarations without identifying employees it preferred not to identify," said an FCC order on April 13.
It added, "Misconduct of this nature threatens to compromise the commission's ability to effectively investigate possible violations of the Communications Act and the commission's rules."
The Street View project
The Street View Project gives users the ability to view street-level images of structures and land adjacent to roads and highways.
Google collected data between 2007 and 2010, when a car driving across various locations in US and later Europe took photos of locations from public places.
FCC believes that Google also collected passwords, Internet usage history and other sensitive personal data, including email messages, instant messages, chat sessions, conversations between lovers, and Web addresses from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
Given that this was not an integral part of the required of the project the agency issued a probe into the matter.
Google had apologized for the error but maintained that it was not illegal since the information gleaned was not unencrypted.
They reiterated that the data gleaned from Wi-Fi networks was never used and that the company has worked with the relevant authorities to dispose of it.
FCC was satisfied by the initial response, but since then Google adopted an uncooperative attitude and failed to respond to request for information and refused to identify the employees involved.
According to them, searching employees' emails would be burdensome and naming the employees involved "would serve no useful purposes."
The FCC maintains that Google had furnished the agency’s Enforcement Bureau with a minimal amount of documentation related to the Street View data collection that had been asked by investigators.
Meanwhile, the search giant said it had turned in all the relevant information needed by the regulators to carry out the probe.
The company said in a statement, "As the FCC notes in their report, we provided all the materials the regulators felt they needed to conclude their investigation and we were not found to have violated any laws."
It added, "We disagree with the FCC's characterization of our cooperation in their investigation and will be filing a response.”