Google Hit With $7m Fine For Collecting Wireless Data

Google Hit With $7m Fine For Collecting Wireless Data

Google has been hit with a $7m fine in the US over the way it harvested people's personal data without getting their authorisation as part of the Street View project.

Google Hit With $7m Fine For Collecting Wireless Data

The US search giant has faced investigations in the US and UK after it admitted that data such as emails, passwords, and web browsing histories was taken from unsecured home wireless networks by the Street View car between 2008 and 2010.

At the time, Google claimed the data was collected unintentionally because experimental code was included by mistake in software used by the Street View vehicles.

At first Google said its Street View vehicles had collected only publicly broadcast WiFi network names and MAC addresses from WiFi routers, but was later forced to admit other data was also collected.

The admission led privacy watchdogs in several countries to launch investigations and demand changes.

The US attorneys-general pursued the case even after the US Federal Trade Commission halted its probe in 2010, saying it was satisfied that Google has addressed the matter by improving its privacy policies.

Google has now agreed a settlement with 38 US states including the $7m fine - shared out amongst the states - and a commitment to search and destroy all the data it harvested.

The firm has also said that it will ban all authorised collection of data going forward, and train its employees on privacy issues.

The agreement requires Google to launch an employee training programme about privacy and data use, according to the BBC.

The company must also fund a public service advertising campaign to educate consumers about how to secure their information on wireless networks.

"Consumers have a right to protect their vital personal and financial information from improper and unwanted use by corporations like Google," said New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman in a statement.

"This settlement addresses privacy issues and protects the rights of people whose information was collected without their permission. My office will continue to hold corporations accountable for violating the rights of New Yorkers." In a statement, Google said that it was glad to have resolved the issue.

"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," the firm said.

"The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it. We're pleased to have worked with Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and the other state attorneys general to reach this agreement."

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has also investigated Google's authorised harvesting of data of UK households with the Street View project.

But Nick Pickles, head of UK privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said that the issue had been addressed better in the US than in Britain.

Google Hit With $7m Fine For Collecting Wireless Data

"British regulators barely managed to slap Google on the wrist for this, so yet again British consumers seem to be left with weaker protection of their privacy than other countries," Pickles told BBC News.

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