The Google Street View Project Saga: Another Episode of Privacy Controversy

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The Google Street View project started as a promising platform.

An innovative technology for Google Maps and Google Earth, Google Street View offers close-to-reality views of streets of select countries around the world.

Google Inc. made the simulation possible by deploying cars packed with software and cameras intended to capture street images. The said cars were first deployed in the United States in 2006. The following year, the California-based Internet and software corporation introduced Google Street View.

With positive feedbacks from web surfers and business establishments alike, Google made advances and included major cities outside the United States and some rural areas in most-frequented countries around the globe.

Currently, operating systems for mobile devices like Android and Windows Mobile feature Google Street View. Smartphones like Blackberry and iPhone also utilize the application.

Criticisms on the manner the technology was made possible were kept at bay until the April 13, 2012 notice from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In the said notice, FCC confirmed that Google did not just capture images while its cars were roving the streets of the United States and other countries. It also collected data from wireless streams of homes and businesses as personal as contents of emails and text messages from May 2007 to May 2010.

FCC found no grounds to prosecute Google in violation of Section 705(a) of the Communications Act. It, however, fined the company for the impediment and delay it caused on the investigation. FCC warranted Google a $25 thousand penalty for failure of providing requested information and documents in a timely manner, in repeated occasions.

Google claimed otherwise.

In a Bloomberg report, the company was quoted as saying it cooperated completely with the investigations conducted by data protection agencies in the United States and other countries. Countries in Europe were first to investigate Google’s fraudulent collection of data.

Google’s claim of cooperation was followed by the release of an edited copy of FCC’s notice.

This, however, was not the first time the Internet giant contradicted itself on the issue of collecting private information.

In early 2010, the company denied that the said event ever happened. In May of the same year, Google admitted its collection of contents of Internet communication, but added that they were only “fragmented data.” Six months later, the company acknowledged that the data collected were not just “fragmented data.” The admission, however, did not come without a twist: Google maintained its innocence and put all the blame to one of its employees involved in the project.

While privacy campaigners are calling for Congressional hearing on the matter, Google gave emphasis on FCC’s findings that it did not violate the Communications Act.

The company wanted to put the issue to rest as it deals with a 20-year privacy audit by the Federal Trade Commission for violation of privacy policies of its now-defunct social network service Google Buzz.

 

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