Barton, Markey, Waxman Want Answers to Google Spy Fi Questions

Google's wi-fi data harvesting abroad and at home continues to draw attention, and ire, from Capitol Hill.

In a letter Wednesday (May 26), the chairman and ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the former chairman of the Communications subcommittee, wrote the company to get some answers.

"We are concerned that Google did not disclose until long after the fact that consumers’ Internet use was being recorded, analyzed and perhaps profiled," they wrote. They also want an explanation of why Google initially denied the data collection, then later admitted it had done so, saying it was inadvertent.

The letter was from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.), chair and ranking member, respectively, and Markey. Markey and Barton are also chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Privacy Caucus.

They wrote the Federal Trade Commission last week about the issue after it came to light in investigations in Europe and other countries, but now more recent reports say that such collection was going on in the U.S. as well.

In their letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, they want to know what implications the data harvesting had for this country. Google was collecting the information via vehicles dispatched in its Stree View mapping program.

Google has apologized and pledged to take corrective action. "The engineering team at Google works hard to earn your trust—and we are acutely aware that we failed badly here," the company said in a blog post after the story broke. "We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake. "

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.