The Federal Communications Commission has reportedly open an investigation into Google’s inadvertent collection of Internet data over unsecured Wi-Fi networks, exploring whether the search giant violated the Communications Act when it dispatched its Street View cars with an experimental piece of software that mistakenly vacuumed up information such as e-mail messages and passwords.
(UPDATE: The FCC is indeed confirming the probe. An e-mailed statement reads:
“Last month, Google disclosed that its Street View cars collected passwords, e-mails and other personal information wirelessly from unsuspecting people across the country,” said Michele Ellison, Enforcement Bureau Chief of the Federal Communications Commission. “In light of their public disclosure, we can now confirm that the Enforcement Bureau is looking into whether these actions violate the Communications Act. As the agency charged with overseeing the public airwaves, we are committed to ensuring that the consumers affected by this breach of privacy receive a full and fair accounting.”)
Word of the fresh investigation in a Wall Street Journal article comes just two weeks after the Federal Trade Commission announced that it was dropping its probe of the Wi-Fi data snag, and numerous foreign governments have opened proceedings in the matter.
Google has expanded its internal privacy controls in response to the incident, saying that it was “mortified” at having collected sensitive information.