Google pushes back against FCC fine

Google is pushing back against a Federal Communications Commission proposal to fine the Internet company for snooping on people's Wi-Fi networks using equipment in its Google Street View cars. 

The FCC announced earlier this month it would fine Google $25,000 for obstructing the investigation into the practice of using the Street View cars to collect Wi-Fi data. The practice persisted for several years while the cars traveled around the world taking pictures of public streets.

Google disputed the FCC’s conclusion that the company impeded the investigation and said it only agreed to pay the $25,000 fine to "put this investigation behind it."

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Google said the investigation was delayed by the commission's internal processes, and that the company had consented to allow seven extra months for the FCC probe, ignoring the statutory deadline.

"That is hardly the act of a party stonewalling an investigation," the company said in a letter sent Thursday to the FCC's enforcement bureau.

Google denied it had obstructed the probe by not making personnel available, saying it had let the commission take testimony from "everyone the FCC asked to meet." The company also argued that "the fact that a certain engineer was legally unavailable did not leave any significant factual questions unanswered."

The FCC declined to sanction Google for the Wi-Fi snooping itself, but imposed the fine because the commission said Google purposefully hindered the investigation. The Federal Trade Commission also declined to penalize the company following its own inquiry.

While the engineer who wrote the offending code code would not talk to the FCC, Google said the employee had cooperated with the company's internal investigation and "believed the collection of publicly broadcast information sent over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks to be lawful."

— This story was updated at 6:00 p.m.