Internet giant Google Inc. will pay $7 million to settle claims of collecting data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010. Thirty eight states and the District of Columbia charged that Google’s Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected WiFi network identification information for use in future geolocation services. At the same time, Google collected and stored data frames and other “payload data” being transmitted over those unsecured business and personal wireless networks.
While Google claimed it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the company admits that the information 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 while the Street View cars were driving down streets. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley had this to say:
This hard-fought settlement recognizes and protects the privacy rights of people whose information was collected without their permission. Google will now strengthen its privacy protocols and further educate consumers about securing their personal information while online.
It should be noted that Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles. The company also agreed not to collect any additional information without consumer notice and consent. It was reported that the information collected was segregated and secured, and under terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as legally practicable. Google also agreed that the payload data was not used, and will not be used, in any product or service, and that the information collected in the United States was not disclosed to a third party.
Google will also be required to run – for at least ten years – a training program for employees about privacy and confidentiality of user data, and will conduct a public service advertising campaign aimed at educating consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks. Attorney General Coakley’s Office served on the executive committee that negotiated the settlement, along with the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas.
Source: Corporate Crime Reporter
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