Google and AT&T taken to task by FCC over privacy breaches

Privacy signs

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has raised concerns over recent high-profile privacy breaches involving two of the world's biggest technology firms.

Last week it emerged that a hacker group had infiltrated US carrier AT&T's systems and gained access to the records of 114,000 iPad users registered with the network.

This after last month's revelation that search giant Google's Street View cars had inadvertently scooped up hundreds of gigabytes worth of data from unsecured wireless networks while taking photos for the mapping service.

The iPad breach is already subject to FBI investigation while Google has taken considerable heat in other countries around the world, particularly Australia, not only for collecting the data in the first place, but also for its subsequent stalling in sharing exactly what information it had.

FCC chief of consumer and governmental affairs Joe Gurin says that in the light of these issues, the organisation was now treating cyber security "as a high priority".

"The FCC's mission is to ensure that broadband networks are safe and secure, and we're committed to working with all stakeholders to prevent problems like this in the future." Gurin wrote in a blog past over the weekend.

"The iPad incident appears to be a classic security breach the kind that could happen, and has happened, to many companies and is exactly the kind of incident that has led the FCC to focus on cyber security."

The FBI has indicated it will investigate the AT&T breach, which saw phone numbers and email addresses exposed including those of celebrities and high-ranking government officials.

Regarding Google and its Street View cars, Gurin said that the company was missing the point by arguing that it was accidental, and that it was breach of privacy either way.

"Google's behaviour also raises important concerns. Whether intentional or not, collecting information sent over Wi-Fi networks clearly infringes on consumer privacy," Gurin said.