Google has agreed to pay USD 7 million fine to settle complaints from dozens of U.S. states about its unauthorized collection of private data from home and business networks obtained through Street View vehicles. Between 2008 and 2010, these vehicles, equipped with antennae and open-source software, collected names, passwords, addresses, emails and other personal information from millions of unencrypted home and business Wi-Fi networks, said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, who spearheaded the investigation.
The money will be paid to 37 states and the District of Columbia, which had gone after Google after it admitted that its Street View cars had collected the data inadvertently between 2008 and 2010.
The disclosure by Google that it collected the information drew attention worldwide. Google paid a €100,000 (USD 130,000) fine to France’s National Commission on Computing and Liberty, while a public prosecutor in Germany declined to launch a criminal investigation.
Google also paid a USD 25,000 fine to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for delaying an investigation into the issue. As part of the settlement, Google said it would destroy the personal data it collected. It has also removed the equipment and software used to collect the data from its Street View vehicles and will not collect additional information without prior notice and consent, the Attorney General of New York said in a statement.
The USD 7 million-dollar fine is pocket change to Google, say analysts — based on projected revenues this year of $61 billion, the company will bring in USD 7 million per hour. But its reputation has taken a hit; its informal slogan in its early years was “Don’t be evil.”
Google will also provide a training program to its employees for 10 years about privacy and the confidentiality of user data, and will launch a public-service advertising campaign to educate consumers about keeping their personal information secure on Wi-Fi networks.