Google agrees to $7 million settlement for Street View privacy infractions

Google agrees to $7 million settlement for Street View privacy infractions

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[JURIST] Google [corporate website] agreed Wednesday to a $7 million settlement for its collection of improper data during the course of its Street View campaign. The settlement [ABC News report] arose from a suit brought by the attorneys general of 38 states against Google for its collection of “payload data,” which includes fragments of messages sent over unencrypted wireless networks as Street View cartography vans drove past that could theoretically contain any information, including passwords, banking details, or personal information, being passed over the network as the vehicle drove by. Google acknowledged in a signed assurance of voluntary compliance [text, PDF] statement that the error was accidental, that no one’s private data was shared, and that it would work on a new privacy initiative to try and stop a similar event from happening in the future. Attorney General George Jepsen of Connecticut, the lead state in the case against Google, welcomed the news [press release], saying that despite the low monetary settlement amount, it is a victory for those in his state:

[T]he 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.

Google’s projected revenues this year are equal to almost $7 million dollars an hour.

Various countries have alleged that Google violated privacy laws by capturing personal data through its Street View service. In June Switzerland found for Google [JURIST report] over privacy allegations reusing from the service. In March 2011 a Berlin court ruled [JURIST report] for Google, holding that the company’s controversial service is legal in Germany. In 2010 a woman sued the company for violating her property and privacy rights by taking pictures of her, her family and the front of her house. The court held that because the picture was taken from the street, no such violation had occurred. On the other side, the French National Commission of Information Technology and Liberty (CNIL) [official website, in French] fined [JURIST report] Google 100,000 euros (USD $141,300) for violating the country’s data privacy laws. Google captured personal data through Google Street View cars used for its Google Maps service but failed to respond to request in a timely manner and to stop using seized data. Similarly in 2010, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) [official website] held [JURIST report] that Google UK has violated the Data Protection Act [text] by collecting data through its Street View service. The ICO did not impose fines but announced that it will require the company to pay fines if it does not comply with the data protection regulations in the future.