Agreement Bans Unauthorized Data Collection, Requires Training of Google Employees on Privacy, and Nationwide Campaign to Education Consumers on Protecting Information
Phoenix (Wednesday March 13, 2013) - Attorney General Tom Horne is today announcing that Arizona has joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Internet giant Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010. Arizona will receive $326,280.81 – the sixth largest share of the nationwide settlement. The state’s share is larger than it would otherwise have been because Arizona served on the executive committee handling the case, which meant additional work for the state Attorney General’s office.
Google’s Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected network identification information for use in future geolocation services. At the same time, Google collected and stored data frames and other “payload data” being transmitted over those unsecured business and personal wireless networks.
While Google represented it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the agreement of voluntary compliance it signed with the states acknowledged the information may have included URLS of requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user while the Street View cars were driving by.
“This hard-fought settlement was the result of nearly two years of negotiation,” said Attorney General Horne. “It is a fair resolution of the states’ complaints and it recognizes the privacy rights of individuals whose information was collected without their permission.”
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.
The information collected was segregated and secured, and under terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as legally practicable. Further, Google agreed that the payload data was not used, and will not be used, in any product or service, and 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 about privacy and confidentiality of user data and continue the 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.