Lawmakers ask FTC to look into Google Wi-Fi data

WASHINGTON Wed May 19, 2010 4:13pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two lawmakers who co-chair the House Privacy Caucus asked the Federal Trade Commission if Google broke the law in collecting WiFi and other Internet data while taking photographs for its Street View product.

Reps. Joe Barton, a Republican, and Edward Markey, a Democrat, wrote to the FTC chairman to ask if the agency was looking into the data collection, which Google has said was "a mistake."

Google said on May 14 that its fleet of cars responsible for photographing streets around the world have for several years collected personal information -- which a security expert said could include email messages and passwords -- sent by consumers over wireless networks.

Barton and Markey, in their letter dated May 19, which was made publicly released, asked the FTC how the data was collected and stored, and who had access to it. They also asked if the data collection violated a reasonable expectation of privacy and if the practice was deceptive or illegal.

The FTC and Justice Department are both interested in looking into the data collection, a source close to the agencies' conversations said.

The FTC confirmed receipt of the letter, but had no immediate comment. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department was not immediately available for comment.

Google said that it had segregated the data on its network and hoped to dispose of it quickly. The data collected in Ireland was deleted last weekend, Google said.

Google did not specify what kind of data the high-tech cars collected, but a security expert said that email content and passwords for many users, as well as general Web surfing activity, could easily have been caught in Google's dragnet.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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