FTC asks Google not to destroy documents about collecting Wi-Fi data

The Federal Trade Commission has asked Google Inc. not to destroy any documents related to the data it collected from unsecured wireless networks as it gathered images for its Street View photo-map archive, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“We’re working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns,” a Google official said.

Citing legal issues, Google said it has not complied with a request from Germany to turn over Internet data and e-mails it collected from the networks as its roving Street View cars collected images. It also has not turned over information to Hong Kong.

Google has said that its cars inadvertently collected 600 gigabytes of “fragmentary data” from Wi-Fi networks in 33 countries and Hong Kong. It has not described the data in more detail. It blamed the collection on a programming error.


Google has offered to destroy the data but has not turned it over to regulators. It destroyed data collected in Denmark, Ireland and Austria after local regulators requested it do so. Eight other European countries including France and Spain have asked Google to retain the data.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, told Congress last week that his agency would “take a very, very close look” at Google’s actions.

An FTC spokesman declined to comment.

Google faces growing criticism of its privacy practices in Europe and the United States.


A bipartisan group of congressional representatives wrote a letter to Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt about the data collection.

“We are concerned that Google did not disclose until long after the fact that consumers’ Internet use was being recorded, analyzed and perhaps profiled,” wrote Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.). “In addition, we are concerned about the completeness and accuracy of Google’s public explanations about this matter.”