inadvertant data collection that happened last May, which stirred privacy concerns in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.The Federal Trade Commission has ended its inquiry into Google's
In a letter (.pdf) sent on Wednesday, David Vladek, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote that the FTC would end its inquiry because of Google's commitments to privacy.
Google discovered last May through an inquiry by a German data protection authority that it had inadvertently collected payload data in its efforts to gather wireless network information using Google Street View cars. This data contained private information, including emails, passwords and more. A report issued last week by Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart found that this mistake was caused by a Google engineer who had failed to follow company procedures involving review of code by company lawyers.
According to the letter, Google "made assurances to the FTC that the company has not used and will not use any of the payload data collected [...] now or in the future." Along with this, Google addressed a number of the FTC's concerns, including "appointing a director of privacy for engineering and product management; adding core privacy training for key employees; and incorporating a formal privacy review process into the design phases of new payload data as soon as possible."
"Because of these commitments," wrote Vladek, "we are ending our inquiry into this matter at this time."
What do you think? Did Google get off easy or was this the right and just decision in the end? Should a company that collected this sort of private data be punished, even though they did not use the data and have promised to delete it? Or should it be "all's well that ends well" and let that be the end of it?