Google settles with US states over Street View data grab

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Following legal action, Google's going to pay just $7 million in the US for its Street View snooping, uncovered three years ago.

It's admitted hoovering up emails, passwords and other data as part of the mapping project between 2008 and 2010, and has settled with the 37 states and the District of Columbia that brought the case.

As well as the comparatively small fine, the company's promised to maintain a tight ship in future. It's agreed to educate employees about privacy and confidentiality - 'don't steal data', one presumes - and to  secure and eventually destroy the Street View data.

It's also going to sponsor a nationwide public service campaign to help educate consumers about securing their wireless networks and protecting personal information.

"While the $7 million is significant, the importance of this agreement goes beyond financial terms. Consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy," says George Jepsen, attorney general of Connecticut, which led the case.

"This agreement recognizes those rights and ensures that Google will not use similar tactics in the future to collect personal information without permission from unsuspecting consumers."
 
Google's Street View vehicles collected network identification information as well as data frames and payload data being transmitted over unsecured business and personal wireless networks as they drove by.

Google admits that this may have included URLS of requested web pages, partial or complete email communications and confidential or private information - all the fault of one rogue engineer, it says.
 
The data collection took place all over the world, but has resulted in a range of different penalties for the company. This latest fine amounts to about an hour's earnings for the company.

"This was a protracted, complex negotiation," says Jepsen. "Google deserves credit for working in good faith with my office to develop policies and best practices to protect consumer privacy going forward."