Google fined $25,000 for impeding FCC investigation

WASHINGTON Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:05am EDT

People visit Google's stand at the National Retail Federation Annual Convention and Expo in New York January 16, 2012. REUTERS/ Kena Betancur

People visit Google's stand at the National Retail Federation Annual Convention and Expo in New York January 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/ Kena Betancur

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Google Inc has been fined $25,000 for impeding a U.S. 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 Federal Communications Commission imposed the fine late on Friday, saying Google had collected personal information without permission and had then deliberately not cooperated with the FCC'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 an FCC order dated April 13.

"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."

Google said in a statement said 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 United States 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.

But Google also collected passwords, Internet usage history and other sensitive personal data that was not needed for its location database project, the FCC said.

Google publicly acknowledged in May 2010 that it had collected the so-called payload data, leading to an FCC investigation on whether it had violated the Communications Act.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Richard Chang and Eric Meijer)

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