Lawmakers ask whether company had plans to use information collected over Wi-Fi networks

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., today wrote to Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt seeking answers to the company’s collection of private information over Wi-Fi networks.
We are concerned that Google did not disclose until long after the fact that consumers’ Internet use was being recorded, analyzed and perhaps profiled.  In addition, we are concerned about the completeness and accuracy of Google’s public explanations about this matter,” wrote the lawmakers. “For example, on April 27, 2010, a Google blog post contained inaccurate information about whether payload data was collected.  However, a Google executive on May 14, 2010, admitted in Google’s official blog that the company had ‘been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e., non-password-protected) Wi-Fi networks.’”

Barton and Markey, co-chairmen of the House Privacy Caucus, separately wrote last week to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Liebowitz about Google’s recent revelation that it gathered the network information.

The lawmakers asked Schmidt to respond to the following questions:

1.    What percentage of United States roads have been documented for Google Street View?

2.    Over what time period did the collection of information for Google Street View take place or, if roads are visited by Google Street View vehicles more than once, what is the schedule for return visits to roads?

3.    Have all Street View vehicles documenting United States roads been engaged in the monitoring or data collection of Wi-Fi transmissions at all times during those activities?  If the answer is no, please explain in detail in what communities the monitoring or data collection was conducted and the reasons that these communities were chosen for monitoring or data collection.

4.    How many Wi-Fi networks across the country have been logged since Google began its Street View program? How many consumers were subject to the data collection?

5.    Was any notification of this monitoring and data collection made to affected communities prior to deploying Street View vehicles, and was consent sought from consumers? If so, please explain the notice and consent procedures involved. If not, please explain why this was not done.

6.    Has Google at any time conducted a legal analysis regarding the applicability of consumer privacy laws on the monitoring and data collection of Wi-Fi transmissions? If so, please provide a copy of this analysis.

7.    Please explain why Google chose to collect the data and how it intended to use the data.

8.    What is the status of the consumer data collected?  Has it been analyzed and used in any way?  Does Google have plans to use it in the future? Please explain in detail.

9.    Has the collected data been destroyed? If yes, when and by which method(s)? If not, why not?

10.    What is the status of Google’s internal review of Street View’s monitoring and data collection practices to ensure adequate controls? What is the methodology? When did the review start? Who is conducting the review? Are there any interim findings? When is it expected to be completed? Will the review, or portions of it, be made available to the public?

11.    What is Google’s process to ensure that data collection associated with new products and services offered by the company is adequately controlled?

12.    Has Google asked a third party to review the software at issue? If so, who is the third party, and what is the nature of the review?

A copy of the letter to Schmidt can be found here . A copy of the letter to the FTC on the Google can be found here.