Google Inc has been fined US$25,000 for impeding a US investigation into the Web search leader’s data collection for its Street View project, which allows users to see street level images when they map a location.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imposed the fine late on Friday, saying Google had collected personal information without permission and had then deliberately not cooperated with the commission’s investigation.
“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,” according to a commission order dated Friday.
“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 order said.
Google said in a statement that it turned over information to the agency and challenged the finding that it was uncooperative.
“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,” the company said in a statement. “We disagree with the FCC’s characterization of our cooperation in their investigation and will be filing a response.”
Between May 2007 and May 2010, Google collected data from Wi-Fi networks throughout the US and across the world as part of its Street View project, which gives users of Google Map and Google Earth the ability to view street-level images of structures and land adjacent to roads and highways.
However, Google also collected passwords, Internet user history and other sensitive personal data that was not needed for its location database project, the commission said.
Google publicly acknowledged in May 2010 that it had collected the so-called payload data, leading to a commission investigation into whether its actions had violated the Communications Act.