From 2008 to 2010, Google's Street View team collected personal data without consent.
For a company that earned more than $50 billion in consolidated revenues last year, a $7 million fine is the very definition of a slap on the wrist, but hey, it mostly goes to lawyers anyway. That's the amount Google agreed to pay to settle a Street View privacy lawsuit with 37 states and the District of Columbia, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today. In addition to the fine, Google agreed to secure and destroy information it improperly collected from March 2008 to March 2010.
During that time, equipment attached to Google's fleet of Street View vehicles inadvertently collected personal information over unencrypted wireless networks as they rolled through neighborhoods taking pictures. The data harvesting was never Google's intent.
"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," Google said in a statement. "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."
As part of the settlement, Google agreed to launch an employee training program to prevent something like this from happening again, and will conduct a national advertising campaign to educate consumers on how to protect their private information.
"Consumers have a right to protect their vital personal and financial information from improper and unwanted use by corporations like Google," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "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."
Since the investigation, Google has disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect data.