Google Settles With 38 States Over Wi-Fi Spying Charges

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In 2010, Google was caught siphoning data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks with its Street View cars. It's now been almost three years since the practice was first revealed, and Google may have finally tied the last loose string of this affair.

Connecticut Attorney State General George Jepsen announced today that Google has paid out $7 million to settle charges brought against it by the 38 states affected by its Street View Wi-Fi spying. On top of the cash settlement, Google must adhere to a number of agreements:

...engage in a comprehensive employee education program about the privacy or confidentiality of user data; to sponsor a nationwide public service campaign to help educate consumers about securing their wireless networks and protecting personal information; and to continue to secure, and eventually destroy, the data collected and stored by its Street View vehicles nationwide between 2008 and March 2010. Google also collected similar data around the world.

Jepsen hopes that the settlement will hopefully dissuade Google from trying anything like this in the future:

“While the $7 million is significant, the importance of this agreement goes beyond financial terms. Consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This agreement recognizes those rights and ensures that Google will not use similar tactics in the future to collect personal information without permission from unsuspecting consumers."

The settlement is the latest, and potentially final, chapter in the Wi-Fi spying scandal that hit Google in 2010. The company was fined by the FCC last year to the tune of $25,000 for obstructing an investigation into its Wi-Fi eavesdropping practices, but the Commission ultimately dropped the investigation. Privacy advocates had called for a renewal into the investigation, but that didn't exactly pan out.

Those same privacy advocates are no doubt pleased then by today's settlement. They'll probably argue that the $7 million settlement isn't nearly enough, but at least the company will finally destroy all the data it collected.

[h/t: The Hill]

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