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Google fined barely anything

The search giant has been hit with a fine for 0.0003% of its quarterly income for unauthorised data

Google has been hit with a $25,000 fine by the FCC over how it collected and stored data from unsecured wi-fi networks while it put together its Street View database.

At the same time as photgraphing streets for Google Maps – something which is entirely legal, although it was accused of "spying" when it launched – the search giant collected the location and names of wi-fi networks to build a location database. It also in some cases collected content, and it is this which has landed it in hot water. The error was compounded by the fact that they refused to co-operate with the FCC, which wrote:

Google refused to identify any employees or produce any emails. The company could not supply compliant declarations without identifying employees it preferred not to identify... Misconduct of this nature threatens to compromise the commission's ability to effectively investigate possible violations of the Communications Act and the commission's rules.

The company originally attempted to claim the data collection was an error, but the New York Times reports than an engineer in charge of the project said that it must have known what it was doing.

All told, a damning report. Which is why the fine is so laughable: it amounts to just 0.0003 per cent of Google's net revenue for the first quarter of this year. Which begs the question why the FCC felt it ought to impose it at all.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.