Waxman Probing Google’s Street View Application

Posted May 26, 2010 at 11:51am

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is looking into whether Google violated privacy laws by eavesdropping on wireless networks.

In a letter Wednesday, Waxman gave Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt until June 7 to answer a dozen questions regarding a fleet of the search firm’s cars, which troll streets throughout the country collecting images for Google’s Street View maps application.

The company recently acknowledged that it inadvertently culled private information, including “personal e-mails, health and financial information and search and surfing habits” from unsecured residential and commercial wireless networks, according to Waxman’s letter.

The practice may have violated federal law, Waxman wrote, and he is asking the company to disclose details regarding the ongoing development of its popular web-based program, including the percentage of roads nationally that it has catalogued and whether the company continues to use the sensitive information to market its products.

“We are interested in the nature of this data collection, the underlying technology your fleet of Street View cars employed, the use of the information collected, and the impact it could have on consumer privacy,” Waxman wrote.

The letter was also signed by committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs one of the panel’s subcommittees.