How a lone grad student scooped the government—and what it means for your online privacy

“Street View would have been a very difficult case for us,” Vladeck said. The agency quietly closed its investigation in late 2010 with no action.

Google was not yet free of the government’s watchdogs. The Federal Communications Commission conducted a separate investigation of its own and discovered the data collection was not accidental, as Google had claimed once it owned up to downloading the data. The FCC sharply criticized Google in April but fined the company just $25,000, which is not even a rounding error in the web giant’s first quarter profit of $2.89 billion.

Megha Rajagopolan contributed reporting.

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