Google Settles WiFi Information Investigation for $7 Million With Texas, 37 Other States
Texas and 37 other states have resolved a lengthy investigation into what they say was unlawful collection of personal information by Google’s Street View.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office says that the investigation focused on their collection of personal information, which included email and search histories from unsecured wireless routers at private residences and businesses.
Google reportedly initially denied that their Street View vehicles were retrieving private information, but the Mountain View, California-based group later acknowledged that it had “mistakenly” engaged in that practice.
“For two years, Google violated Texans’ privacy rights and secretly collected personal information from their wireless routers,” said Abbott. “Today’s agreement requires Google to destroy any personal data that was improperly collected and imposes important new privacy protections that govern the Street View program going forward.”
Google, who begins their corporate code of conduct with “Don’t be evil,” had apparently outfitted their Street View vehicles with specialized data collection devices that also scanned and stored payload data from wireless networks that were not password protected.
The Google Street View vehicles travel around areas taking pictures for the company’s Street View program.
The company reportedly collected this information from 2010 to 2012.
Under Tuesday’s agreement, Google must pay $7 million and comply with specific requirements, which include:
- Destroying the payload data it collected;
- Notify network users and obtain their consent before using its Street View vehicles to collect any additional payload data;
- Implement an employee training program that highlights network users’ privacy and maintain the training program for the next 10 years;
- Develop a public service campaign to educate network users about how to better secure their personal information while they are using wireless networks.
Abbott urges Texans to secure their home computer systems and to activate encryption features to make sure that transmitted information is kept private.