October 27, 2010, 11:12 PM — This Associated Press opening paragraph pretty much sums up the rough justice meted out to the company that wants to organize (collect) all the world's information:
The Federal Trade Commission is scolding Google Inc. without punishing the Internet search leader for collecting e-mails, passwords and other personal information transmitted over unsecured wireless networks.
The "without punishing" thing isn't entirely accurate, though, since I hear Google will have to do the dishes for an entire week!
It all began more than three years ago when the online search giant began collecting images for its Street View mapping service. Google cars transporting multiple cameras through neighborhoods in more than 30 countries were inadvertently grabbing information from wireless networks as they passed through. According to the FTC, the practice continued for several years before Google executives realized what was happening (after German officials started asking questions).
In its two-page letter to Google announcing the close of the investigation, the FTC writes: "FTC staff has concerns about the internal policies and procedures that gave rise to this data collection."
Make that "had" concerns, because the FTC notes that "Google has recently announced improvements to its internal processes" and has "publicly stated its intention to delete the inadvertently collected payload data as soon as possible. Further, Google has made assurances to the FTC that the company has not used and will not use any of the payload data collected in any Google product or service, now or in the future. ...Because of these commitments, we are ending our inquiry into this matter at this time."
Another happy ending! Well, not quite. One of those trouble-making "consumer rights" organizations isn't happy at all with the FTC's decision to let Google off easy.
"The Federal Trade Commission’s two-page letter ending its probe of the Google Wi-Spy scandal is premature and wrong," Consumer Watchdog said in a statement Wednesday.
Consumer Watchdog has been a fierce critic of Google's privacy practices and earlier this year urged the FTC to investigate the "wi-spy" case.
John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Inside Google Project, said in a statement:
“At a minimum the public deserved a full report about Google’s abuses from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.