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Lawmakers Want DOJ to Reopen Google WiFi Spying Probe

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two members of Congress are calling on the Department of Justice to reopen a federal investigation into Google's tapping into WiFi networks two years ago.

Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., (D-N.J.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.) want the DOJ to fully investigate Google for what they say could be potential violations of federal wiretapping laws. They cite a recently released Federal Communications Commission report on Google's Street View cars spying on WiFi networks. The lawmakers issued their request in a May 24 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The FCC report suggests the Wi-Fi snooping was a “deliberate, software-design decision,” Pallone said in a press release.

“In light of the FCC report on Google Wi-Spy -- which revealed Google intentionally collected personal information from Americans -- I urge the Department of Justice to re-evaluate the Google Wi-Spy incident,” Pallone said in a statement. “Privacy is a critical issue and neither Google's influence nor size absolves it from responsibility.”

When Google engineers tested the Street View service in 2010, they decided to use the software to scan WiFi networks, according to an April FCC report. The engineers believed their actions could help create maps for WiFi hotspots, the report said. But one of the Google employees developed code for collecting WiFi network data that could be used for other Google services, the FCC added.

Pallone and Barrow suggest that Google may have misled the federal government about the WiFi spying. While Google claims the spying was a mistake, the FCC report said Google's actions “resulted from a deliberate software-design decision of a Google employee who examined and evaluated the data that was collected and shared his findings with others at the company,” the lawmakers wrote.

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