Tech giant Google has settled a lawsuit brought by 38 states and the District of Columbia, accusing the company of violating privacy rights during its Street View Mapping Project. The cars used in the project were outfitted with equipment and software that collected information from unsecured wireless networks.
The company admitted that the information collected may have included e-mail communications and other confidential information transmitted over networks while the Street View cars were in the area.
Derek Schmidt, Attorney General of Kansas, one of the 39 states that sued Google for violating citizens’ privacy, said. “Kansans expect that their privacy rights are not being violated by cars driving by their homes and gathering their personal information from home computer networks.”
As part of the settlement, Google has agreed to stop the practice and destroy the data they collected. The company will pay a $7 Million Dollar fine and agreed to train employees about privacy for the next 10 years. Google will also launch a public service campaign to teach people how to secure their personal information on wireless networks. With Google worth an estimated $198 billion, a $7 million dollar fine is pretty much equal to fining a person who earns $30,000 a year a penny. Although the public service campaigns and training will cost the company money, it’s not going to put too much of a dent in its bank account.
Google was fined $22 million last summer for violating privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser by the Federal Trade Commission. According to the FTC’s complaint, Google specifically told Safari users that because the Safari browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, as long as users do not change their browser settings, this setting “effectively accomplishes the same thing as [opting out of this particular Google advertising tracking cookie].” When in fact the cookies were placed on users’ computers. As part of that settlement, the company agreed to disable those tracking cookies.
It’s always a good idea to secure your home network to prevent anyone from gaining access to your data.