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April 18th, 2013
Drive-By Storing: Google Agrees to Pay $7 Million to Settle Street View Privacy Case
According to a recent settlement, in addition to images of the world's roads and buildings, Google's special Street View vehicles may have also collected personal information from users on unencrypted business and personal wireless networks.
The settlement ends a two year, multi-state investigation that was led by the Connecticut Attorney General's Office. According to the settlement, Google executives were not aware that the software used in its vehicles was collecting personal data, which may have included URLs of requested Web pages, email addresses, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user at the time. Google alleges that it never used this data, and once discovered, the company took steps to segregate and secure the data. According to a press release issued by the Connecticut AG's Office, Google has since disabled or removed network identification and data collection equipment and software from its Street View vehicles, and has agreed not to collect additional data through the vehicles without notice and consent.
In addition to the payment of $7 million dollars, which will be divided among the 38 states (and the District of Columbia) involved in the investigation, the settlement requires Google to destroy the collected data and to set up a privacy program that includes, among other requirements, annual privacy week events for employees, privacy certification programs for selected employees, refresher training for its lawyers overseeing new products, and training programs for employees who deal with privacy matters. In addition, the settlement requires Google to issue a public service campaign to educate consumers on ways they can secure their data while on wireless networks. The public service campaign will run as a how-to video on YouTube, on Google's public policy blog, on informational pamphlets, and as half-page ads in major newspapers in the states involved in the investigation. Google has been the subject of other privacy enforcement actions. For example, in 2012, the FTC fined Google $22.5 million for impermissibly tracking users of the internet browser Safari in violation of an earlier privacy settlement order -- the largest penalty ever levied by the FTC for violation of a settlement order.
The Street View settlement makes clear that data collection remains a regulatory hot spot. If you need advice about data collection, or have other advertising and marketing law concerns, please contact S. Gregory Boyd at (212) 826 5581 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Claudine Wilson at (212) 705 4842 or email@example.com, or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Technology, Digital Media and Privacy Group.
Other Privacy & Data Security Law Alerts
Privacy Shield: Year One Updates You Need To Know
This month we're celebrating Privacy Shield's first birthday with an update on everything Privacy Shield. There have been a number of developments on the Privacy Shield-front that companies certified or seeking self-certification under Privacy Shield need to know.
October 17 2017
Class Action Lawsuits Over Alleged COPPA Violations Reinforce Importance of Compliance
Earlier this month, three class action lawsuits were filed against companies for alleged violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act ("COPPA").
August 22 2017
Third State Adopts Biometric Privacy Law
On June 1, 2017, Washington State joined Illinois and Texas as the third state to pass a biometric privacy law. The law, H.B. 1493, which goes into effect July 23, 2017, covers any business entity that collects biometric identifiers for commercial purposes.
July 11 2017