Google coughing up $7M over Street View privacy violations

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) agreed to pay a $7 million fine in a multistate settlement regarding its unauthorized collection of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks nationwide through Google's Street View vehicles.

The fine settles a two-year probe by 38 states and the District of Columbia. Connecticut led the eight-state committee that actually investigated Google's data collection practices.

"While the $7 million is significant, the importance of this agreement goes beyond financial terms. Consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy. 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," said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen.

Google also agreed to educate its employees about the privacy or confidentiality of user data; sponsor a nationwide public service campaign to educate consumers about securing their wireless networks and protecting personal information; and continue to secure, and eventually destroy, the data collected and stored by its Street View vehicles nationwide between 2008 and March 2010.

In October 2010, Google indicated it would not resurrect its Street View cars to collect information about the location of Wi-Fi networks.

The Internet giant has faced similar backlashes over its data collection methods in countries around the world.

Google's Street View vehicles roamed the roads collecting Wi-Fi network identification information as well as confidential data being transmitted over unsecured business and personal wireless networks as the cars drove by. "Google acknowledged the data may have included URLs of requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user at the time," said the Connecticut attorney general's office.

Google claimed the network identification information was collected for use in future geolocation services but said its executives were unaware that additional payload data also was being gathered. 

Google Maps with Street View offers 360-degree, panoramic, and street-level imagery. In October 2012, it was disclosed that Google had rolled out Street View technology to its maps application for the mobile Web, with the feature going live in most supported areas of the world.

For more:
- see this Connecticut attorney general's release
- see this Los Angeles Times article
- see this BGR article

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