Google will pay Tennessee and 36 other states $7 million and revamp its consumer privacy practices as a result of an agreement filed today, Attorney General Bob Cooper has announced. Tennessee’s share is estimated at $133,528 as part of the agreement stemming from privacy complaints regarding Google’s collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.
The agreement now bans unauthorized data collection and requires Google train its employees on privacy and launch a nationwide campaign to educate consumers on how to protect their information.
“We are pleased Google recognizes consumers’ right to privacy and will no longer collect information during its Street View photography without their permission,” General Cooper said. “I strongly encourage Tennesseans to take more proactive steps to secure their personal wireless Internet connection to avoid any other similar privacy intrusions.”
At issue in the case is Google’s Street View maps in which the company used cars equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected network identification information. It then used those that information for other services such as geo-location applications. Google has admitted it simultaneously collected and stored information gathered from nearby home and business wireless networks without permission.
While Google represented it was unaware it was gathering unsecured wireless data while the Street View cars were driving by, the company acknowledged the information it collected may have included Internet addresses of requested Web pages searches, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network.
Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles, and agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent.
As part of the agreement, Google has agreed to segregate and secure the information it gathered and will destroy the information as soon as legally practicable. Further, Google agreed that the data was not used, and will not be used, in any product or service. The company also agreed 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 for at least 10 years. It must also conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.
View the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance here: http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/cases/google/google.html.