Agreement Bans Unauthorized Data Collection, Requires Training of Google Employees on Privacy and Nationwide Campaign to Education Consumers on Protecting Information
Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin Tuesday joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Internet giant Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.
Google's Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected 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 represented it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the assurance of voluntary compliance it signed with the states Tuesday acknowledged 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 by.
"Consumers should not have to worry that someone is going to access their personal web browsing information or email communications," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "This settlement recognizes the privacy rights of individuals whose information was collected without their permission and sends a clear message to companies that privacy practices need to be implemented and respected." Rhode Island's share of the settlement is $104,491.
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 notice and consent.
The information collected was segregated and secured, and under the terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as legally practicable. Further, Google 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.
Other key elements of the agreement require Google to run an employee training program about privacy and confidentiality of user data and continue the program for at least 10 years. It must also conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.
In addition to Rhode Island, the following states participated in the settlement: Connecticut, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, 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 and Washington.