Biden Joins $7 Million Multistate Settlement Over Google Street View
Wilmington – Attorney General Beau Biden today joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a settlement with Google over its collection of data from unsecured personal and business wireless networks while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March, 2010. As part of the settlement, Google will pay $7 million to the participating states; Delaware will receive $103,000, which will be paid to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Fund.
Google’s Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected network identification information for use in future geolocation services. At the same time, Google collected and stored data frames and other “payload data” being transmitted over those unsecured business and personal wireless networks.
“Consumers have a right of privacy in their homes, a right that was violated when Google’s Street View cars captured their personal information without their permission,” Biden said. “We’re protecting consumers whose information was compromised by ensuring that the data in Google’s possession is destroyed and we’ve acted to ensure that specific steps are taken to prevent this conduct from occurring again.”
While Google represented that it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the agreement acknowledged the information may have included URLs of requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user while the Street View cars were driving by. Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles, and agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent.
The information collected was segregated and secured, and under terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as legally practicable. Further, Google agreed that the payload data was not and will not be used in any product or service, and that the information collected in the United States was not disclosed to a third party.
Other key elements of the agreement, which takes effect today, require Google to run an employee training program about privacy and confidentiality of user data and continue the program for at least 10 years. It must also conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.
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