Wednesday, November 03, 2010

FTC Ends Investigation of Google “Street View” Data Collection Practices

This posting was written by Thomas A. Long, Editor of CCH Privacy Law in Marketing.

The Federal Trade Commission has ended its investigation of Google’s data collection practices related to its “Street View” program, according to a letter sent to Google on October 27 by David Vladeck, the Director of the FTC’s Office of Consumer Protection.

Street View allows users of Google’s mapping service to view ground-level photographs of specific locations, which are taken by cameras attached to cars driven by Google employees.

In 2007, the company installed software on its Street View cars to collect data about wireless network access points for the purpose of improving its location-based services. Earlier this year, Google discovered that the software on the Street View cars had also been collecting some “payload” data contents of communications sent over unsecured wireless networks. Google asserted that the collection of payload data was inadvertent and that it had not used the data.

Vladeck said the FTC’s staff has concerns about the internal policies and procedures that gave rise to this data collection. In the FTC’s view, Google’s internal review processes were inadequate.

Google was urged to develop and implement procedures to ensure that it collects only information necessary to fulfill a business purpose, disposes of information no longer necessary to accomplish that purpose, and maintains the security of information collected.

Because Google had made assurances that it would improve its processes and would delete the payload data, the FTC decided to end its inquiry without assessing a fine or penalty.

Text of Vladeck’s letter appears here on the FTC website.

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