Google to pay $7M settlement for Street View privacy violations

on March 13th, 2013 by erikwestlake | No Comments »

Google to pay $  7M settlement for Street View privacy violations

You may have forgotten back in 2010 Google’s Street View cars caused a bit of a kerfuffle when it was discovered the mobile mappers were accidentally collecting data from unprotected WiFi signals across the U.S.

In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Google $ 25,000 (UK£16,751, AU$ 24,288) based on its findings, and because Google didn’t turn over emails pertaining to the violations.

That instance however didn’t impact the ongoing case for privacy infringement brought against Google by 38 U.S. states including Arizona, California, New York, Texas, and the District of Columbia.

On Wednesday, Google reached a settlement with all the states who took umbrage with the data collection, resulting in what could be construed as nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Password protected

As part of the settlement, Google will pay a $ 7 million (UK£4.69M, AU$ 6.8M) fine to the various entities involved in the suit.

"We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Additionally, Google has agreed to begin a nationwide educational program detailing the importance of privacy protection on WiFi signals.

The company has also conceded to a 10-year program for its employees wherein Google will train its employees on privacy issues.

When the privacy violations first came to light, Google claimed ignorance, and pointed the finger at a rogue engineer.

However, the FCC discovered more than a few Google employees actually knew the WiFi data mining was happening, and did nothing to stop the issue.

Advocacy groups like Consumer Watchdog are less than impressed with the penalties levied against Google in this case, and claim the latest settlement does "virtually nothing to thwart the Internet giant’s repeated privacy violations."

Considering the Mountain View company recorded $ 50 billion (UK£33.5B, AU$ 48.5B) in revenue during 2012, the $ 7M fine could be seen as inconsequential, but recent financial issues with Motorola may make this judgment more damaging than it initially appears.




TechRadar: World of tech

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