April 22, 2013
Breach Of Privacy Nets Google Stiff Fine In Germany
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Google was fined over $180,000 by a Germany privacy regulator due to how the company collected data while it created the Street View mapping service more than three years ago.
In 2010, Google acknowledged it collected personal data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi signals while it was creating the controversial mapping program. Street View was meant to give users a first-person perspective of the world, showing shops, sidewalks, intersections and pedestrians in images obtained through special car technology. In order to grab all the photos, Google commissioned cars equipped with cameras that snapped 360-degree images every few feet while driving down every road it could get its wheels on.
Google said the collected Wi-Fi network information allowed it to build location features into the mobile version of Street View, such as directions to nearby restaurants. However, privacy advocates saw it as more than that. Once Google admitted to snagging over 600 gigabytes of personal information during its journey across the world, countries began lining up with complaints.
Officials from the German government began meeting in September of 2010 to discuss how to handle the privacy breach. Now, Germany has upheld its promise to continue its scrutiny on Google by adding a $189,230 fine to the company's growing debt to several states and countries.
According to the New York Times, Johannes Caspar, the data protection supervisor in Hamburg, said the fine was the maximum he could legally impose. He added that the fine was "woefully inadequate" to stop Google from continuing to invade privacy.
Casper and his agency are considered to be the first to uncover Google's collection of data from Wi-Fi routers. In 2009, Casper asked Google to erase photos gathered through the mapping campaign. However, Google responded with a 13-page response about how it would keep, but 'NOT' use the raw images.
The $180,000 fine isn't the only one Google has managed to rack up in its efforts to photograph the world. The company has also agreed to pay a $192,000 fine each to 37 states and the District of Columbia -- in all totaling $7 million.
“The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn´t use it or even look at it. We´re pleased to have worked with Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and the other state attorneys general to reach this agreement," Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said in a statement to the New York Times last month.
Google is still continuing to build its Street View mapping service, and it is even expanding the first-person perspective view beyond pavement. Google announced in January that it added 75 miles worth of virtual trips throughout Grand Canyon National Park.
“Whether you´re planning an upcoming hike, or want to learn more about the Earth´s geological history, Google Maps can help,” explains a post in Google Maps´ Lat-Long blog. “Our team strapped on the Android-operated 40-pound backpacks carrying the 15-lens camera system and wound along the rocky terrain on foot, enduring temperature swings and a few muscle cramps along the way.”