“In a clear example of overreaching, a few years ago, while collecting WiFi signals for an initiative to offer ‘location based services,’ Google’s software program grabbed digital ephemera (including URLs, entire e-mails and passwords) off computers from inside people’s homes,” Bonnie Goldstein reports for The Washington Post.

“Although Google did not release the data publicly and claims to have never even looked at the payload, the mega-metadata site was this week fined $25,000 by the Federal Communications Commission,” Goldstein reports. “The fine is for obstructing the regulatory agency’s investigation of the activity, not for the unauthorized snooping. Although it would be a small pittance to pay the rather stark privacy intrusion on unsuspecting citizens gathered door to door, the cyber company was given a pass on that. It seems the oversight authorization conferred by the Communications Act of 1934 is a bit antiquated when it comes to privacy enforcement.”

Goldstein reports, “In the WiFi case before the FCC, Google has shown equal equanimity and tact. Google’s lawyers claim the overreaching bonus data was collected accidentally and they have corrected their methods. But the unnamed engineer who designed the software, is protecting his own privacy. He has refused to talk to FCC investigators based on concern he could incriminate himself. Not to mention his corporate culture.”

Read more in the full article here.

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