Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Federal Communications Commission is Investigating Google

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

The number of lawsuits against Google grew rapidly in the last few months. So to avoid the multilitigation problem Google filed a motion in the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation attempting to amalgamate the lawsuits into one case, as almost all of the complaints contended some claim under the federal Wiretap Act. Google was concerned with conflicting pretrial motions “especially with respect to the proper scope and extent of discovery, class certification and other factual and legal matters” and espoused joining the complaints because “all of the claims make very similar factual allegations, and thus any necessary discovery will be of common facts.”
The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation to determine whether Google’s recording of the unencrypted data violated federal privacy law. The investigation was halted in October when Google vowed to strengthen privacy controls by hiring an extensive privacy team, training employees in an advanced securities awareness program, and requiring internal engineers to maintain privacy design documents detailing the techniques used when collecting user data.
This October, Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission alleging Google broke federal privacy law regarding “electronic eavesdropping” and possibly violated Section 705 of the Communications Act. Following the filing of the complaint and Google’s public disclosure of the mistake, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison stated the “Enforcement Bureau is looking into whether these actions violate the Communications Act” and confirmed an FCC investigation into Google’s data inception process. The FCC investigation is largely bolstered by global concerns as countries in Europe, which have greater privacy laws than the United States, are increasingly concerned with Google’s acquisition of sensitive personal data. The investigation is currently underway.

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