Some of you may recall seeing Google’s Street View cars in your areas. This was Google’s mapping project that created an uproar in the United States and abroad.  Objections and investigations were brought here and abroad because — as was learned — Google was collecting more than just street and building locations.  As the Street View cars moved around, they were also intercepting Wi-Fi and collecting personal information from people’s computers.  Google claimed this had been an error made by one engineer.  No matter who was at fault, the outcome was potentially very damaging.  The information included email addresses, computer passwords, medical and financial information and other personal information.  It goes without saying that people hadn’t given Google permission to collect any of this information from them.

In the United States, Attorneys General from 38 States and the District of Columbia have been investigating Google for privacy violations.  Google just settled with the Attorneys General and acknowledged violating people’s privacy through Street View’s data collection. Google will pay a $7 million fine to the Attorneys General for the 38 States and the District of Columbia and take steps to strengthen its privacy training and privacy guidelines for its staff.

What will consumers get out of this settlement?

  1.  Google still had some of the data it had collected although it had previously said all of the data had been deleted.  It agreed in the settlement to delete any remaining data.
  2. Google has to create a video YouTube explaining the steps people can take to encrypt data on their networks.
  3. Google will have to place educational ads in the biggest newspapers in the 38 States and the District of Columbia.

Hopefully the video and ads will provide concrete, easily understandable information that will help consumers protect their information.