Google formally settles Wi-Fi data collection case in U.S. for $7M

Summary:The search giant has settled its Street View Wi-Fi data collection case in the U.S. for $7 million. As part of the deal, Google will sponsor a national public service campaign advising that consumers secure their Wi-Fi networks.

Google has settled a case with 38 state attorneys general after it collected data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks with its Street View cars as they drove by collecting street-level imagery.

The 38 states will receive a slice of the $7 million — which will take Google just over two hours to recover from  — but the twist is that Google will sponsor a nationwide public service campaign to help educate consumers about securing their home Wi-Fi networks, which would prevent disclosure of personal data and prevent bandwidth thieves.

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UK reopens Google Street View investigation after FCC probe

The U.K.'s data protection regulator is reinvestigating Google a year after it closed the case, following an FCC report claiming the search giant knew of the data collection.

Reports of a settlement first emerged on Monday .

But compared to Google's $50 billion in revenue and more than $10 billion in net income during the 2012 fiscal year, it represents just a fraction of the company's worth for what was a massive scale breach  of privacy. 

"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. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it," Google told the Reuters news agency.

Google admitted in 2010 that it had inadvertently collected personal and sensitive data from home wireless networks in the U.S. and Europe while its Street View cars drove past. It was part of the company's efforts to determine the location of Wi-Fi networks in order to build up a list of assisted location services for mobile users.

Today's settlement doesn't end the headache for the search giant, however. 

U.K. data protection authorities re-examined the company's evidence after first letting the co company off with a slapped wrist, after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found further evidence to support its investigation. The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office at first didn't fine the company and remains in discussions with Google to get to the bottom of the situation, following a a strongly-worded letter sent in June last year.

Google was fined $25,000 by the FCC after it was found to have "deliberately impeded and delayed" the authority's investigation into whether or not it breached U.S. laws. French authorities also fined the company €100,000 ($142,000, at the time).

Topics: Google

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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