Attorney General Pam Bondi today announced a $7 million multistate settlement with Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.
Attorney General Bondi’s Office served on the executive committee that negotiated the agreement, which requires Google to destroy the data it gathered during that time period. The company also agrees to run, for at least 10 years, a training program for employees about privacy and confidentiality of user data. It will also conduct a public service advertising campaign aimed at educating consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.
“In today’s highly technological world, consumers face constant threats to their privacy and personal information,” stated Attorney General Bondi. “We must remain vigilant in ensuring that an individual’s online communications remain both private and secure.”
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.
Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles.
The information collected was segregated and secured and, under terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as legally practicable. Further, Google agrees 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.
While Google represented it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the agreement of voluntary compliance it signed with the states acknowledges 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.
Florida is one of 38 states and the District of Columbia involved in the settlement.