Google Did Not Violate US Law When Collecting Wifi Data

04 May 2012 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

Google was fined $25,000 for not cooperating with an investigation regarding Google’s collection of unencrypted wifi data when taking Street View pictures from 2006-10, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported that Google did not violate any US laws. The FCC’s Report included this conclusion regarding alleged violations of Section 705(a) of the federal Wiretrap Act:

...the Bureau has found no evidence that Google accessed or did anything with such encrypted communications....we do not find sufficient evidence that Google has violated Section 705(a).

When Google’s wifi data collection became news in 2010 Google confessed that the wifi information collected was

WiFi networks broadcast information that identifies the network and how that network operates. That includes SSID data (i.e. the network name) and MAC address (a unique number given to a device like a WiFi router). Networks also send information to other computers that are using the network, called payload data, but Google does not collect or store payload data.

Since 2010 there has been much controversy about Google’s wifi collection, but the FCC’s vindication does not overcome Google’s alleged violation of EU laws.

I find Street View feature of Google Maps one of the greatest Interest services available since it allows anyone to see the world up close and personal. This is how Google describes Street View:

Google Maps with Street View lets you explore places around the world through 360-degree street-level imagery. You can explore world landmarks, view natural wonders, navigate a trip, go inside restaurants and small businesses.

It is interesting that Google created such a firestorm about collecting unencrypted wifi data while taking pictures which helped transform information on the Internet.

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