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Why the FCC Fined Google Just 68 Seconds in Profits

Why the FCC Fined Google Just 68 Seconds in Profits


Written by Justin Elliot

The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday it is slapping a fine on Google for deliberately impeding an investigation of the collection of sensitive wireless network data as part of the search giant’s Street View mapping project. The amount of the fine: $25,000.

That figure is, of course, barely a rounding error for the company. Google made $2.89 billion last quarter, or $25,000 in profits every 68 seconds.

Nevertheless, the FCC Enforcement Bureau report announcing the fine says the $25,000 level is intended “to deter future misconduct in view of Google’s ability to pay.”

The FCC found that Google Street View cars, which were taking pictures for Google Maps, also collected passwords, email and medical records, among other data, from residents’ WiFi networks. Google has apologized for collecting the data but maintains it was legal.

The report states that the FCC actually ramped up the fine. The base fine for the violations was $12,000.

The report also notes that the commission has elected to increase fines “[t]o ensure that a proposed forfeiture is not treated as simply a cost of doing business.”

The FCC could have levied a larger fine, but it still wouldn’t have amounted to much for Google. As the report says, the maximum allowed by law for stonewalling the FCC’s investigation as Google did is $112,500 per violation.

The report counts three violations by Google: “failures to identify employees, produce e-mails, and provide compliant declarations.” So, the total fine could have been $337,500, or about 15 minutes of profits.

The report says the FCC decided on $25,000 based on “the totality of the circumstances of this case” and “our precedent in other failure to respond cases.”

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment on how the fine was calculated or how it would serve as a deterrent.

The company, for its part, disputed the FCC’s findings in a statement: “We disagree with the FCC’s characterization of our cooperation in their investigation and will be filing a response.”

Google will have recouped the fine in less than the time it took you to read this.

This post was originally published by ProPublica.


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Photo from surrealpenguin via flickr

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1:57PM PDT on May 9, 2012

What is the world coming to?

2:48AM PDT on Apr 25, 2012

And ...look what the FDA does not do

1:13AM PDT on Apr 25, 2012

If you join the dots correctly this explains perfectly (I repeat perfectly) why Google got such a wrist slap

11:55AM PDT on Apr 24, 2012

Even though I always use Google Chrome and I absolutely love it, this makes me reconsider going back to Firefox. Google is becoming way to Big Brothery for me. Check out this video on Youtube. It's really funny and ironic :D /watch?v=Mkr4UgU-9ac

10:18PM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

Yes, Big Brother.
I'm am completely suspicious of Google anyway - it collects data on what you view on the internet just by having Gmail open! I love Google Chrome, but it's the same thing and I'm seriously considering changing browsers because they collect all this information on where you go and what you do. It's a complete invasion of privacy and surely illegal!

2:16PM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

Unfortunately, we need to be realistic. You aren't given a fine that is based upon how much money you have, but rather what the crime is.

1:51AM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

Thanks for the article.

2:32AM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

If the US had meaningful unions, anti-corporate movements, and anti-corporate political parties, we would not have to worry about government slaps on the wrist. The corporations would be afraid of us and would behave accordingly. Start organizing.

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4:06PM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

What do you want to bet that fine doesn't come close to paying for all the money the FCC spent trying to get it?
Our tax money hard at work..not.

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