Google fined on Street View probe

Google has been fined $25,000 - a drop in the bucket for such a massively wealthy company - for not co-operating with a US probe into Google's Street View project, enabling Google users to see images at street level.

A massive project to map much the inhabited globe. What did Google do wrong, precisely?

Fine smack

Google harvested millions of communications from Wi-Fi routers - payload information, text messages emails, Internet-usage history - when Google vehicles criss-crossed Europe and the US between 2007 and 2010, mapping and photographing public places.

The data collection mining caused a furore in 2010 when it became clearer what information Google had been amassing. But what is still unknown is who authorised what, right up the Google command chain.

"For many months," the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) claims, "Google deliberately impeded and delayed the [Enforcement] Bureau's investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information and to provide certifications and verifications of its responses."

Fifth Amendment

Google claims it has been co-operative. However the case has been muddied by the FCC consequently dropping its investigation into the issue. That's because a Google engineer central to the project invoked the Fifth Amendment refused to testify, avoiding risk of self-incrimination.

Here in the UK lawmakers have already demanded that Google introduce algorithms that make it easy to remove search links that could breach privacy. Google has claimed in the past that it is not its job to monitor Internet content.

Celebrities have been particularly vulnerable here with gagging orders flouted regularly on line. For example, Google currently will not filter out results breaching court orders - such as the one obtained by Ryan Giggs, the footballer.

Google argues that such moves would threaten the freedom and flow of information. A recent move by Google enabling private data to be shared with YouTube, Gmail and Blogger has also raised concerns - changes that are in breach of European law, the EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, claims.
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