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Google to Pay Millions in Settlement Over Streetview Wi-Fi Privacy Issues

Google settles Street View "hacking" legal battle
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Washington is one of 37 states sharing a fine paid by Google for alleged privacy violations during mapping for its “Street View” feature.

On Wednesday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said between 2008 and 2010 Google equipped its Street View cars with open-source software and antennas capable of picking up Wi-Fi and other digital signals as they mapped neighborhoods for the project.

From the website release:

Google also collected and stored other information that was transmitted over those unsecured business and personal wireless networks. Google claimed it was unaware the company was collecting the data, but signed the assurance of voluntary compliance (AVC) acknowledging information it gathered may have included the internet addresses—or URLs—of requested Web pages, partial or complete e-mail messages and other confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user while the Street View vehicles were travelling through neighborhoods.”

The settlement will result in Google paying $7 million in penalties and to cover legal fees, prosecution and other uses seen fit by each state’s attorney general. Washington’s share comes to $135,604. Google has since removed or disabled the tracking equipment from its Street View vehicles and any information gathered will be stored securely until it can be destroyed.

The report did not specifically list what neighborhoods were directly affected.

Yet another reason experts say you should only use Wi-Fi systems securely encrypted that require a password to log on. According to the report, Google did not capture information sent via encrypted Wi-Fi systems.

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