Technology

Google wants data on wireless firms

Google underscored that it wants more wireless data in a filing
with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week that asked the
agency to collect, and make available, more information from wireless
providers.

The
company’s desire for more
wireless data became abundantly clear this year when an effort to
collect
information about Wi-Fi networks led it to accidentally collect private
data
running over those networks, resulting in a major legal and public
relations
debacle centered around privacy infringement.

{mosads}In
asking the FCC to collect
more information from wireless providers last week, Google acknowledged
that
such efforts can create privacy conflicts. Buried on the last page of
its
filing, in a footnote, the company said that collecting wireless data
requires
some care.


“Passively
measured data may
need to be anonymized first, with limits on appropriate data sharing, in
order
to protect user privacy,” the company said.

Google wants to use the wireless
data the FCC might collect. It tells the commission to “maximize access to data”
and “enable third parties to effectively ‘look under the hood’ of its
measurement policies and techniques.”

Google’s stance breaks with
that of CTIA, the wireless association, which told the FCC that regulations and
new data collection is “unnecessary.” Google is a member of CTIA.

A major reason Google is
concerned with the quality of wireless networks is that fluctuations in service
impact how users experience its products. “Network management practices …
affect application and content performance in ways that are difficult for users
to discern and understand,” the filing says. 

Among the data Google wants
the FCC to collect: peak and average throughput for both upload and download
speeds, latency, jitter, diurnal patterns, signal strength, and network
accessibility.

When Google attempted to
independently collect information about Wi-Fi networks this year, a software
glitch resulted in the collection of private data running over those networks,
prompting scrutiny everywhere from the states to Capitol Hill to countries
around the world. 

Google filed its comments in
an FCC proceeding — launched in June — seeking comment on the best ways to
measure mobile broadband speeds, what information would be most useful for
consumers, and how the data should be communicated. 

The effort arises from a
concern that consumers do not understand what they are getting from mobile
companies. In announcing the proceeding, the FCC also released a survey
revealing that 80 percent of Americans do not know the speed of their broadband
connections.

“Speed matters. The more broadband subscribers know about what
speeds they need and what speeds they get, the more they can make the market
work and push faster speeds over broadband networks,” FCC Chairman Julius
Genachowski said in a statement at the time.

*UPDATE: This story was updated on July 13, 2010 to replace the word Wi-Fi with the word “wireless” in three instances.

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