Google was ordered to pay a mere $7 million for complaints over invasions of privacy for consumers via Wi-Fi poaching by their Street View cars. The tech company will also have to do some “community service”; they’ve been tasked with educating their employees and the public on how to protect home Wi-Fi with passwords. “But, $7 million is still a lot of money!” you exclaim. The reality is that they generate that much money in just a couple of hours.
Leading the charge against Google was Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen. He admitted that the punishment was minor but the privacy issues exposed by the case were the most important outcome.
“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,” said Jepsen in a statement from his office.
In 2010, Google acknowledged that they collected personal data about people and businesses as their Google Street View vehicles drove around, logging in to unsecured Wi-Fi. This tactic, referred to now as “Wi-Spy,” has been downplayed by Google. They said it was never their intention when they started the project in 2007, and they never used or examined the data. Despite claiming innocence, they were not forthcoming with evidence the FCC requested in order to clear their name. They were fined $25,000 by the FCC.
“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,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement.
The new settlement provides that a total of 38 states and the District of Columbia will receive portions of the $7 million. It also requires Google to have an annual “privacy week” event for their employees, create a privacy certification program for certain positions within the company, and make a YouTube video illustrating the basic, easy steps to take to protect their networks with passwords and encryption. Google is required to promote the video for two years through online advertising as well as print advertising in newspapers in major cities of each state affected by the settlement.