Google has agreed to pay $7 million in a settlement reached with several dozen states, including Washington, over its collecting of data from unsecured wireless networks while taking photographs for its Street View service.
The settlement, reached with 38 states and the District of Columbia, also requires Google to ban unauthorized data collection, to train employees on privacy and to participate in a nationwide ad campaign to educate consumers on protecting information when using wireless networks.
Washington will receive $135,604 from the settlement.
Google had equipped its cars working on Street View with antennae and open-source software that managed to collect and store personal information — which may have included email messages and other private information — transmitted over unsecured business and personal wireless networks, according to a statement from Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
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Google had said it was collecting the network identification information for a future geolocation service.
“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 company said in a statement Tuesday. “The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it.”
Ferguson said: “This is a prime example of the power of the state attorneys general to band together and hold powerful companies accountable. This settlement brings a contentious case to fair resolution, recognizing the privacy rights of those individuals whose information was collected without their permission.”