Google has reached a settlement with 38 U.S. states and the District Columbia in a case related to collection of private Wi-Fi data by its Street View cars. The company has admitted fault and will pay $7 million, which is a very small fraction of its annual revenue.
Time's Sam Gustin reported, "Seven million dollars. That’s how much Internet giant Google will pay to settle a multi-year investigation into its controversial 'Wi-Spy' data collection practices. The furor erupted in 2010 when Google disclosed that it had collected Wi-Fi data from unsecured wireless networks as its 'Street View' vehicles crawled major cities worldwide, photographing buildings for a ground-level view on Google Maps. On Tuesday, Google agreed to pay $7 million to 38 states and the District of Columbia to settle the matter. To put that in perspective, Google generated revenue of about $50 billion last year, or nearly $6 million per hour."
David Streitfeld with The New York Times noted, "Google on Tuesday acknowledged to state officials that it had violated people’s privacy during its Street View mapping project when it casually scooped up passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users. In agreeing to settle a case brought by 38 states involving the project, the search company for the first time is required to aggressively police its own employees on privacy issues and to explicitly tell the public how to fend off privacy violations like this one."
The Associated Press added, "The company blamed the intrusion on a rogue engineer who rigged a data-collection program into equipment that was supposed to only detect basic information about local Wi-Fi networks to help plot the locations of people using its mapping service and other products. After concluding its own investigation, the Federal Communications Commission last year asserted that some of Google's managers knew about the engineer's plan to vacuum information being transmitted over the Wi-Fi networks. Google hasn't identified the engineer who set up the data-collection program."
DailyTech's Tiffany Kaiser observed, "While Google has now been punished for its incident, some are not happy with the amount of the fine. For instance, Steve Pociask, the president of the American Consumer Institute, said that $7 million is nothing to a huge tech company like Google and likely won't ward off any further intrusions of privacy."