Google has been fined for $25,000 for obstructing a U.S. investigation into the Web search leader’s data collection for its Street View project, which permits users to view street level pics when they start mapping a location.

The Federal Communications Commission charged the fine , saying Google had collected private information without getting permission and had then intentionally not cooperated with the FCC’s interrogation.

“Google refused to identify any employees or produce any e-mails. The company could not supply compliant declarations without identifying employees it preferred not to identify,” according to an FCC order dated April 13.

“Misconduct of this nature threatens to compromise the commission’s ability to effectively investigate possible violations of the Communications Act and the commission’s rules.”

Google said in a statement said it turned over information to the FCC and confronted the finding that it was not cooperative.

“As the FCC notes in their report, we provided all the materials the regulators felt they needed to conclude their investigation and we were not found to have violated any laws,” the company said in a statement. “We disagree with the FCC’s characterization of our cooperation in their investigation and will be filing a response.”

Between May 2007 and May 2010, Google collected data from wi-fi networks throughout the United States and across the world as part of its Street View project, which gives users of Google Map and Google Earth the ability to view street-level images of structures and land adjacent to roads and highways.

The FCC further said “Google also collected passwords, Internet usage history and other critical personal information that was not required for its location database project”

Google publicly accepted in May 2010 that it had collected the so-called payload data, leading to an FCC’s interrogation on whether it had infringed the Communications Act.

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  1. Average guy gets a speeding ticket, that’s probably $300. Assume average guy makes $45,113 a year. Let’s also pretend he’s not taxed, for simplicity’s sake. Final assumption: he gets paid bi-weekly. So $45,113 divided by 26 is $1735.12, that’s his paycheck. The fine he’s got to pay for a relatively harmless traffic infraction is 17.29% of his paycheck.

    Google’s comparative bi-weekly paychecks are (assuming revenue of $68b, and no taxes, as above) $2,615,384,615.38. They got fined $25k. That’s something like 0.00047794% of Google’s equivalent “paycheck”.

    To be fair, maybe they ought to be fined something approaching an equivalent percentage that a private person would be fined…

  2. Considering google also has been known to call in regulators to watch them delete information they shouldn’t have had when they realized they had it, that sounds very likely.

  3. What really gets to me is this is the equivalent of an average joe getting a 1 cent ticket for running a red light.

  4. Tough to say, because, where a 25K fine could be crippling to a mom and pop business it is nothing to a Multi-billion like Google. I’m guessing the fine runs on a sliding scale, 25k being the top of that scale. In order for a fine to mean something it has to have an effect.

    Recently an 8-billion a year company got fined $80,000 for negligence causing harm to an employee. That employee is now a quadriplegic. Does that sound like a “fair trade”? I’m sure the prison term and possible legal litigation raised against an individual in a case where a person caused another person to become a quadriplegic would be much greater, and in fact, a friend of mines sister was hit by a drunk driver in 1988 and later sued successfully for 13 million. She is also a quadriplegic.


    Edit: where I live it is very difficult to sue your employer for things like injuries (though not impossible with gross misconduct). Workers exchanged the ability to sue for injuries in exchange for an “insurance policy” that is the Workers Compensation Board.

  5. Yeah came here to make a joke about how I hope this doesn’t effect their bottom line too badly. Did a bit of research, and it’s actually slightly more than that. The median income for U.S. males in 2006 was $45,113, and Google’s revenue that year was $10.6B. So $25,000 to them in those terms is the equivalent of about 10 cents to Joe. Of course, Google’s revenue has probably grown much faster since then than the average income. Their revenue 2011 was just shy of $68B, but I didn’t have a more recent figure for income. I think we can safely assume it hasn’t increased over 6-fold in the last 5 years though.

  6. To be really accurate, it’d be like a business owner noticing one of his employees is doing something seemingly brilliant that others might find offensive and turning himself/his company over to the authorities to make sure that the matter is dealt with as cleanly as possible.

    When the head scratching on how to punish the company becomes drawn out the owner suggest a large fine to be used as an endowment to establish a non-profit organization to help other business owners out with similar predicaments.

    Later on the FCC comes to the owner without legal footing and asks some really irrelevant private questions and the owner says ‘no I can’t compromise the privacy of my employees, sorry.’ and since the company is so quick to pay fines the FCC figures why not fine them?

    This story is a black eye for the FCC not Google.

  7. Wouldn’t this be sort of like a man bring fined for not supplying incriminating evidence to the police?

  8. Is it just me or does this seem like Google handed over everything the FCC needed but they are getting fined for not handing over the employee details which I think is great of them… Am I missing something?

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