Google Admits its Street View Cars Violated People’s Privacy, Pays $7 Million fine

Did you think Google’s Street View cars only took pictures of your neighborhood? We did too, but as it turns out, they took a lot more than just photographs.

A three-year-long privacy investigation involving Google’s Street View cars revealed some disturbing information. Between 2008 and 2010, Google’s cars collected passwords, e-mails, medical and financial records and other private information from home wireless networks. Basically, Google’s cars sucked in all information available on unencrypted wireless networks…

While Google says the incident was a mistake, blaming the whole thing on a software glitch that made the cars accidentally collect users’ private information, it has agreed to pay a $7 million fine to 38 states and the District of Columbia to settle the investigation, the New York Times reported.

The Internet giant will also have to instruct its employees about user privacy (as if they needed an investigation to tell them that) and sponsor a nationwide campaign about how users can protect themselves on wireless networks. Last but not least, it also has to destroy all of the data it collected.

While the fine means nothing to a company of the size of Google, privacy advocates and Google critics view the overall agreement as a major breakthrough. The settlement sets a precedent and may help privacy advocates in their battle over the company’s next controversial product. No, not driverless cars, the Google Glass, which is a wearable computer in the form of glasses.

Google Glass can take photos and record videos, which can then be posted on social networks.

By Dan Mihalascu

PHOTO GALLERY

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