A three-year-long privacy investigation revealed some disturbing information involving Googles Street View cars. The investigation proved between 2008 and 2010, Google’s cars collected passwords, e-mails, medical and financial records and other private information from home wireless networks. So essentially, Google’s cars sucked in all information available on unencrypted wireless networks.
The New York Times reported that even though Google claims the incident to be a mistake, blaming the whole thing on a software glitch that made the cars accidentally collect users’ private information, they have agreed to pay a $7 million fine to 38 states and the District of Columbia to settle the investigation.
In addition, Google will have to sponsor a nationwide campaign about how users can protect themselves on wireless networks, and instruct their employees about use privacy (as if they needed an investigation to tell them that). On top of all that, the internet giant has to destroy all of the data they collected.
Although the fine means nothing to a company so large, privacy advocates and Google critics view the overall agreement as a major breakthrough. This settlement sets a precedent and may help privacy advocates in their battle over the company’s next controversial product.