(AUGUSTA, Maine) Attorney General Janet T. Mills joined 38 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement on Tuesday with Internet giant Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks around the nation while taking photographs for its Street View mapping service between 2008 and March 2010.
The agreement bans unauthorized data collection, requires training of Google employees on privacy and includes a nationwide campaign to educate consumers on protecting information
Google's Street View cars were equipped to collect identification information from unsecured business and personal wireless internet networks for use in geolocation mapping services. At the same time, Google collected and stored pieces of data and other "payload data" being transmitted over those wifi networks.
While Google maintained it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the agreement of voluntary compliance signed with the states today acknowledges the information may have included requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications, and private information being transmitted to or from the network user while the Street View cars were driving by.
Attorney General Mills stated, "As an industry leader Google has recognized that collecting personal and private data from an unsuspecting wifi network user is unacceptable. At the same time, this case is a reminder that people should take steps to protect themselves from unwarranted intrusions of their personal and financial matters. Password protecting your home or business wifi networks is a simple first step."
Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles, and it has agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent.
The information collected was segregated and secured, and under terms of the agreement, it will be destroyed. Google also agreed 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.
Other key elements of the agreement require Google to run an employee training program about privacy and confidentiality of user data and to continue this program for at least 10 years. Google must also conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about how to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.
Assistant AG's Linda Conti and General Christina Moylan assisted the Attorney General with this case.
Maine's share of the multistate settlement is $106,004.56. Maine's share of the settlement funds may be used to cover the costs of litigation or to be used for future consumer protection or privacy enforcement and consumer education.
Other states participating in the settlement are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
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