Google has admitted it broke privacy laws with its Street View technology and will pay $7 million to the 38 states that sued — one of the largest amounts ever imposed for similar digital violations.
The company announced its settlement on Tuesday, and privacy rights groups were quick to applaud.
“This is a significant privacy decision,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, in a report from The Boston Globe.
Still, some see the fine as measly; Google reportedly brings in $32 million each day. But Mr. Rotenberg said the settlement amount was 200 times larger than what the Federal Communications Commission fined Google last year when the company was found to be obstructing the feds’ investigation into Street View.
Street View is a Google creation that deploys specially devised vehicles to photograph homes and offices around the world. But the technology was also scooping up private information — including emails, medical and financial records, online account passwords and the like. The technology was able to grab the data from unencrypted wireless networks, The Boston Globe reports.
”Consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” George Jepsen, Connecticut’s attorney general, said in a statement Tuesday published by the Globe. ”This agreement recognizes those rights and ensures that Google will not use similar tactics in the future to collect personal information without permission from unsuspecting consumers.”
Google must also require employees participate in programs about privacy, as part of its settlement agreement.