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Google fined for Street View data harvesting

Drive-by spies

Google will pay a $7m (£4.6m) fine for its unauthorised harvesting of user data by Street View cars in the US.

From 2008 to 2010, it is alleged that the company’s Street View cars were collecting information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks while photographing the streets outside. The email addresses, passwords and web histories that were harvested will now be destroyed as part of a settlement with 38 states.

Furthermore, Google is required to retrain its employees on the privacy and confidentiality of user data, and will sponsor a public service ad campaign informing users how to secure their wireless networks.

Google has insisted that the code used to harvest the data was added by a rogue engineer, although an FCC investigation found other staff may also have known about the practice.

In a statement, Google said: “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.”

Insignificant fine

Despite the $7m fine being one of the biggest of its kind, the amount is relatively insignificant to Google. Sky News reported that Google makes enough revenue in a single hour to pay the fine. Meanwhile, yesterday it was revealed that Google will pay $15m (£10.1m) in bonuses to its top four executives, including $6m to Eric Schmidt who has taken a back seat since April 2011.

Tom Glass, creative director at theEword, said: “For a company like Google, any scandal over unauthorised user data collection is clearly going to cause problems. Although the fine isn’t exactly going to cause a dent in their bank balance, the public apology and commitment to educating both staff and consumers speaks volumes.”

Written by Rachel Hand

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