Google has agreed to pay a $7 million settlement to several dozen U.S. states as part of an agreement of charges that the company was collecting private user data from WiFi hotspots while its Street View cars were driving around taking photos in various locations.
The controversy over Google’s data-gathering practices with its Street View cars has been going on for more than a year, since it was revealed that the cars were collecting information from private users’ WiFi routers. Google paid a $25,000 fine last year as part of the FCC’s investigation, but that was assessed for the company’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation. Privacy advocates cried foul at the time, but the fine was the largest allowable.
Now, Google will pay $7 million total to 38 states and the District of Columbia to settle the WiFi-snooping allegations. Also, Google must perform a number of other actions, including destroying all of the payload data it collected during the Street View operations from 2008 to 2010, maintain a comprehensive privacy program and create a public service campaign designed to make uers aware of the privacy and security implications of using WiFi networks.
Under the terms of the agreement, Google did not admit any guilt in the Street View operation. The settlement agreement betwen Google and the states also says that the document won’t have any effect on pending litigation or other ongoing actions.
*Image via Flickr user donjd2‘s photostream, Creative Commons