Unanswered Questions About Google
The Federal Communications Commission fined and censured Google for obstructing an inquiry into its Street View project, which had collected Internet communications from potentially millions of unknowing households as specially equipped cars drove slowly by.
But the investigation, described in an interim government report, was left unresolved because a critical participant, the Google engineer in charge of the project, cited his Fifth Amendment right and declined to talk, report David Streitfeld and Edward Wyatt in articles published on Sunday and Monday in The New York Times.
The inquiry leaves a host of unanswered questions, they report. It is unclear who else at Google might have known about the data gathering, or when they might have known.
The data was a snapshot of what people were doing online at the moment the cars rolled by – e-mailing a lover, texting jokes to a buddy, balancing a checkbook, looking up an ailment. Google spent more than two years scoop! ing up that information, from January 2008 to April 2010.
Google maintains that the data gathering was unauthorized, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, but the engineer is maintaining that other people at the company knew about it.
Google, by simultaneously apologizing, promising to do better and saying as little as possible, made the issue go away.
The news, which broke Saturday morning, was largely downplayed by the major news organizations and blogs over the weekend. Some emphasized that Google had been cleared of wrongdoing and many focused on the small amount of the fine: $25,000.
The Daily Telegraph picked up on another privacy problem Google faces in Europe: requests to blur house numbers in Street View photos.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, warned in an interview of the threat to the freedom of the Internet. He said he feared “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world,” adding, “I am more worried than I have been in the past. It’s scary.”