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Google gets $25K fine for 'impeding' FCC probe into Street View

The FCC has fined Google $25K for stonewalling government investigators. 

By Matthew Shaer / April 17, 2012

Google has been fined $25K by the FCC. Here, employees walk past the entrance to the Google offices in Zurich.

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The FCC is slapping Google with a $25,000 fine for "willfully" and "deliberately" obstructing a government investigation into the Street View project. The backstory: For years, Google regularly dispatched specially-equipped vehicles to collect photographs and data from streets around the globe. In the process, according to an FCC probe, Google also scooped up a bunch of personal information from un-passcode protected Wi-Fi routers. 

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Google has apologized and promised that none of the data collected by the Street View vehicles would ever be used. But after one Google engineer – identified in court documents as "Engineer Doe" – invoked the fifth amendment, the FCC accused Google of stonewalling. More specifically, the FCC claims that Google did not make certain internal e-mails available to investigators. 

"For many months, Google deliberately impeded and delayed the Bureau’s investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information and to provide certifications and verifications of its responses," reads a portion of a complaint filed by the FCC. Of course, a $25K fine won't exactly hurt Google – by one calculation, Google makes that much in profits every sixty seconds or so. 

Still, it does send a clear message. In fact, some privacy advocates think the US government didn't go far enough.

"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," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, recently told The New York Times

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