Google to pay $7M to US states for Wi-Fi eavesdropping

The company will destroy all personal data inadvertently collected by its Street View cars

Google will pay US$7 million to settle complaints from dozens of U.S. states about its unauthorized collection of personal data transmitted over Wi-Fi networks.

The money will be paid to 37 states and the District of Columbia, which had gone after Google after it admitted that its Street View cars had collected the data inadvertently between 2008 and 2010.

As well as photographing their surroundings, the Street View cars collect data about the location of Wi-Fi access points to help with Google's navigation services. It was during that process that the company's cars collected personal information sent over those networks.

As part of the settlement, Google said it would destroy the personal data it collected.

It has also removed the equipment and software used to collect the data from its Street View vehicles and will not collect additional information without prior notice and consent, the Attorney General of New York said in a statement.

It's a relatively small sum for a company of Google's size. To put the settlement in context, it's a little more than the $6 million bonus that Google will pay Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt for his work at the company in 2012, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.

Google will also provide a training program to its employees for 10 years about privacy and the confidentiality of user data, and will launch a public-service advertising campaign to educate consumers about keeping their personal information secure on Wi-Fi networks.

The disclosure by Google that it collected the information drew attention worldwide. Google paid a ¬100,000 ($130,000) fine to France's National Commission on Computing and Liberty, while a public prosecutor in Germany declined to launch a criminal investigation.

Google also paid a $25,000 fine to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for delaying an investigation into the issue.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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