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Watchdog Group Asks Congress To Examine Google's WiFi Data Collection, Ties To Obama Administration

In a six-page letter to House Oversight Committee leaders, a watchdog group has called on the government to do a “thorough investigation” of both Google’s WiFi data collection and the FTC’s recent decision to end its investigation without penalizing Google.

In a blog post announcing the letter (PDF download), Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, also ties the FTC decision to Google’s “extensive and close lobbying connections with the Obama Administration.” He writes:

Yet in late October, the Federal Trade Commission abruptly ended its investigation of “Street View” – a decision that came on the heels not only of Google’s admission that its surveillance was much more serious than previously disclosed but only days after a $30,000-a-head fundraiser for President Obama at the home of a Google executive.

The NLPC is pointing out that the FTC announcement happened on October 27, less than a week after President Obama attended the fund raiser at Marissa Mayer’s house. In his letter, Boehm also calls attention to CEO Eric Schmidt’s pre-election endorsement of Obama in 2008, as well as the fact that several former Google employees now work for the President. Ironically, perhaps, some have questioned in the past if the Obama administration could be Google’s downfall in anti-trust areas.

Boehm and the NLPC may get what they want. Just last week, Congressman Ron Barton called Google’s collection of personal data — which Canada’s investigation revealed to include e-mail addresses and full e-mails with personal information such as usernames, passwords, home addresses, phone numbers, and more — via Street View “very troubling,” and said “you could almost guarantee” that the company will be called to testify before Congress in 2011.

Google has maintained all along that the data collection was accidental and has been working with numerous governmental organizations worldwide that continue to investigate what happened. In his comments last week, Congressman Barton shared his opinon that the data collection may not have been accidental — a charge echoed yesterday by longtime Google watcher Scott Cleland, who called it “part of a purposeful and comprehensive Google business expansion plan to enter, catch up and compete with SkyHook Wireless, Google’s only significant competitor in mobile location services.”

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