Google agreed to pay a $7 million fine in the United States on Tuesday
for stealthily collecting data from private Wi-Fi hotspots in a mapping
service slip that irked an array of countries.
In a legal settlement
with attorneys general in 38 states, the Internet giant also agreed to
ramp up employee training about data privacy and back a nationwide
campaign to teach people about securing wireless networks.
that vehicles snapping panoramic photos in neighborhoods for Street View
images in Google's online maps were grabbing data from unsecured
hotspots triggered investigations in at least a dozen countries,
according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
At least nine countries have found Google violated local laws, said EPIC.
the settlement announced on Tuesday, Google again promised that email,
passwords, web histories and other data captured by Street View vehicles
in the United States between 2008 and 2010 will be destroyed.
settlement addresses privacy issues and protects the rights of people
whose information was collected without their permission," New York
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
have a right to protect their vital personal and financial information
from improper and unwanted use by corporations like Google."
Google has since stopped collecting the data and has agreed not to do so without consent, the statement said.
"We work hard to get privacy right at Google," the California-based Internet giant said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.
in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our
systems to address the issue. The project leaders never wanted this
data, and didn't use it or even look at it."
Consumer Watchdog dismissed the fine and conditions in the agreement as
insignificant for the multi-billion-dollar company.
"The $7 million penalty is pocket change for Google," said Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John Simpson.
Google to educate consumers about privacy is like asking the fox to
teach the chickens how to ensure the security of their coop."
A Federal Communications Commission investigation of Street View ended in May of last year.
bureau concluded that it could not accuse Google of breaking US law but
wanted the company penalized for not cooperating quickly enough.
agreed to pay a $25,000 penalty demanded by the FCC but maintained that
fault for delay in the probe rested with the federal agency and not the
The FCC began the investigation in late 2010 after
Google announced that Street View cars taking photographs of cities in
more than 30 countries had inadvertently gathered data sent over
unsecured Wi-Fi systems.
The Federal Trade Commission and US Justice Department had already opened and closed Street View investigations.
sucked up by passing Street View cars included passwords, emails, and
other data that was being transmitted wirelessly over unprotected
routers, according to the FCC.
Google has since stopped the
collection of Wi-Fi data, used to provide location-based services such
as driving directions in Google Maps and other products, by Street View
Street View, which was launched in 2006, lets users view
panoramic street scenes on Google Maps and take a virtual "walk" through
cities such as New York, Paris or Hong Kong.