The fine may be small for Google, but the implications are big. On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission imposed a fine of $25,000 on Google. The FCC said that Google had collected personal information without permission and had deliberately refused to cooperate with FCC’s investigation.
At the same time, Google’s Co-founder Sergey Brin told the Guardian that “Very powerful forces have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world. I am more worried than I have been in the past. It’s scary.” Apparently indicating restrictive governments in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Brin told the Guardian, “I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle.”
FCC said “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.” The FCC further said, “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.”
Google issued a statement that it had turned all relevant information over to FCC and challenged the allegation that it was uncooperative. In its official statement, Google said, “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 … We disagree with the FCC’s characterization of our cooperation in their investigation and will be filing a response.”
The investigations by the FCC were over allegations that between May 2007 and May 2010, Google had exploited wi-fi networks throughout the United States and across the world. It had done so as part of its Street View project, and used the pretext to collect data including internet usage history, passwords, and other sensitive personal data not needed for its project.
In May 2010, Google publicly admitted that it had collected the payload data resulting in the FCC investigation to determine violations of the Communications Act.