By Binu Paul email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Mar 13, 2013 12:37 PM EDT
Google will be fined $7 million as part of a privacy settlement related to its Street View project by which the search engine has allegedly collected passwords, messages and other sensitive data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks as its car fleet photographed neighborhoods. An agreement puts an end to the three-year-long privacy investigation as Google acknowledges that it had violated people's privacy during its Street View mapping project.
The agreement necessitates Google to take adequate measures to make sure the company does not tap into networks again in the future and demands it to destroy the personal data it collected. "Under the terms of the agreement, Google has agreed to secure and destroy the information it improperly collected, launch an employee training program to ensure its employees understand how to protect consumers and their information, conduct a national advertising campaign to educate consumers on how to protect their private information, and pay a $7 million fine to the states involved," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
The settlement closes the last of several U.S. investigations into Street View's alleged violation of private data by illegal interception of Wi-Fi signals.
The Street View cars used cameras to collect images throughout the world and as the cars rolled past homes and businesses from 2008 through mid-2010, they also tried to identify WiFi signals that could provide points of reference for mapping and other services. Although Google insisted that they never used any of the data in its products, the episode alerted many consumers to encrypt their Wi-Fi networks.
"While the $7 million is significant, the importance of this agreement goes beyond financial terms," Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said in a statement. "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 had faced a similar investigation in Europe. Upon finding the project had violated the law, Britain had asked Google to delete the data.
The fine is less than a pocket change for Google, a company that generated revenue of about $50 billion last year, or nearly $6 million per hour.
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