Google to Pay $7 Million Over Collecting Data for Street View Service without Permission
Massachusetts to Receive More than $327,000 in Multistate Settlement; Agreement Includes PSA to Educate Consumers
BOSTON – Internet giant Google Inc. has agreed to pay $7 million to settle claims of collecting data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. Massachusetts will receive more than $327,000 as part of the settlement.
AG Coakley joins 37 other states and the District of Columbia in the settlement, stating that Google’s Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected WiFi 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.
While Google said it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the company acknowledges that 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 down streets.
“This hard-fought settlement recognizes and protects the privacy rights of people whose information was collected without their permission,” AG Coakley said. “Google will now strengthen its privacy protocols and further educate consumers about securing their personal information while online.”
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 consumer 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 has agreed that the payload data was not used, 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.
Google will also be required to run – for at least 10 years – a training program for employees about privacy and confidentiality of user data, and will conduct a public service advertising campaign aimed at educating consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.
AG Coakley’s Office served on the executive committee that negotiated the settlement, along with the attorneys general of Connecticut, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas.
Other states participating in the settlement are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Shannon Choy-Seymour and Sara Cable, both of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division.