Google has agreed to settle a lawsuit concerning its collection of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks
across the US. The search company has agreed to secure and destroy data collected from hotspots when it was taking images for Street View
between 2008 and March 2010, as well as to launch an employee training program and pay a $7 million fine.
The issue stemmed
from code being used to detect the presence of Wi-Fi networks from the roaming Street View car included older code that scraped network traffic, something that Google did not intend it to do. Entire e-mails, URLs, and passwords were scraped by the code, though at the time Google claimed not to have retained or analyzed the data. It has since stopped the collection of such data through its Street View car fleet, and has agreed not to collect any additional information without notice or consent.
The settlement has Google training its employees about privacy and confidentiality of user data, with the company having to educate its staff for at least 10 years. A public service advertising campaign to educate customers on how to secure their personal information on wireless networks will also be funded by Google. The $7 million fine will be split across 38 states, with the exact award varying between states, for example New York will receive approximately $192,000.
"Consumers have a right to protect their vital personal and financial information from improper and unwanted use by corporations like Google," said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, continuing "This settlement addresses privacy issues and protects the rights of people whose information was collected without their permission."
While the settlement lifts a burden from Google in the US, it is still facing similar issues elsewhere. Last July, Google admitted
that it had not deleted data collected through Street View cars in the United Kingdom and more than 30 other countries, with a small cache of data found during a manual inspection of Street View disk inventory.