Lawmakers signal action to come against Google for Street View collection

Google's admission last week that it accidentally collected an untold amount of personal e-mails and documents transmitted over private Wi-Fi networks has prompted two lawmakers to question whether any wrongdoing occurred.

Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) asked the Federal Trade Commission in a letter Wednesday whether it was investigating the search giant's lapse, though lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee stopped short of requesting the agency to launch that very inquiry.

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The members' concerns stem from Google's revelation last week that its infamous cars that assemble content for Google Maps' Street View feature collected not only addresses, as planned, but also e-mail and documents transmitted over local wireless Internet networks.

The search company has since apologized profusely for the error and deleted the data in question. But the incident has nonetheless drawn the utmost ire of other countries' governments — some of whom challenged Google on privacy just last month — and piqued new interest on Capitol Hill.

The letter Markey and Barton sent to the FTC on Wednesday sets up a possible political battle over Street View. The two congressmen asked the agency five pointed questions: whether an investigation is underway, what information was accidentally captured, whether Google infringed on privacy, whether the act was deceptive and unfair, and whether any federal laws were violated.

They further urged the agency to take stock of its own "authority to take necessary action" against Google. Markey and Barton also requested the agency to describe "legislative language you would recommend to enable the commission to act appropriately," and to deliver all of the information by June 2.


FTC officials only acknowledged Wednesday that they received the letter. They declined comment, however, on the lawmakers' requests.