Google Comes Clean with Controversial Street View Project

Last week the Federal Communications Commission finally closed their Google Street View probe after the search giant agreed to pay the $25,000 fine requested by the FCC.

Unfortunately, not everyone was happy about this, wanting Google to pay more or be put on trial for gathering Wi-Fi data in their Street View project.

So over the weekend, Google published a copy of a document which details the scope of the Street View project, drafted in response to the FCC’s letter of inquiry.  When the FCC first released the document, a lot of information was redacted so Google released the full document but changed the names of the people mentioned.

The unredacted document now shows when the Street View project started, that several employees and at least one senior manager knew of the data gathering, making frequent references to a certain Engineer Doe whose software tool is designed to collect payload data, which may be useful in Google’s other services.

The issue now is that when the probe started, Google employees denied knowledge of data gathering over Wi-Fi networks but the document they released now clearly stated that a group of people – Engineer Doe and two other engineers, the senior manager, and other Google employees – knew about the situation.

So why did Google decide to publish the said document?  The search giant just wanted the whole thing to be over so everyone can move on.

“We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals,” said Google spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker  “While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, we agree with the FCC’s conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us.”

Is it really over?

Though Google just wants to move on, not everyone will be able to let things go easily.  The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) asked the Department of Justice to step in.  EPIC believes that $25,000 is not enough to cover the damages since Google collected a huge amount of information like names, addresses, telephone numbers, URLs, passwords, e-mail, text messages, medical records, video and audio files, and other information from Internet users in the United States for more than two years.

Others are still arguing that gathering such information shouldn’t have been included in the Google Street View project, since the focus of the projects should have been just taking street view photos of cities in order to make users feel like they’re actually in that location.  Those people who had their data collected weren’t asked by Google for their permission to do so and that is invasion of privacy.