Google promises to improve Street View privacy

Posted March 12, 2013

— Google won't collect unauthorized data from unsecured wireless networks while taking photographs for its Street View service and will destroy data already collected, according to an agreement with 39 states, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

Google Street View is an online service that provides street-level photos of locations around the world. The images are photographed by cars that travel on public streets.

Between 2008 and March 2010, cars taking Street View photographs were equipped with antennae and software that Google acknowledged collected network identification information for use in future geo-location services. Google also collected and stored data frames and other “payload data” being transmitted over those unsecured business and personal wireless networks without authorization.

“In an age where more information than ever before is available at our fingertips, companies have got to take protecting personal privacy more seriously,” Cooper said in a statement. “Just because it’s technologically possible to gather certain data doesn’t make it right.”

Under terms of the agreement, the unauthorized data collected will be destroyed. Google also agreed that the payload data hasn't been and won't be used in any product or service or disclosed to a third party.

Google will also pay $7 million to the states, including $151,024.02 to North Carolina.

While Google represented it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the agreement it signed with the states Tuesday acknowledges 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.

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.

Other key elements of the agreement require Google to run an employee training program about privacy and confidentiality of user data for at least 10 years. It must also conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about steps they can take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.


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  • Sherlock Mar 13, 2013


  • OpenM1nd Mar 13, 2013

    Reparations seem to be a bit excessive. Seven million dollars for information that was not even used? Really? It's like walking down the street through a crowd of people holding conversations with each other, hearing the conversations, and then walking back handing signed privacy agreements to everyone you just overheard, and then taking sensitivity training because you were eavesdropping, and then going back again to pay some arbitrary and nominal amount of compensation for mostly worthless information that you forgot anyway. In short, privacy is important, but society has become far too litigious about things.

  • davidgnews Mar 13, 2013

    So where does all that money go that was awarded to the state for violations of privacy? Nancy

    I'd like to know that as well. I can feel reasonably assured that NONE of the ones victimized in this process will ever see a dime, just like in most cases like this one.

    As usual, the gov't will just pick up the fine 'on behalf of the many....'

  • paulmichaelowens Mar 12, 2013

    I'd be more concerned with Level 3 Communications and the information they are gleaning from their embedded infrastructure.

    Any encryption is better than no encryption.

  • brassy Mar 12, 2013

    Now if only Google would stop photographing people's homes and posting them on the internet for the entire world to see.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Mar 12, 2013

    Greyhound_Girl - "I think the title of the story is misleading...the issue is with the unauthorized collection of "payload data"."

    Not to seem naive, but what's that mean?

  • JohnnyMcRonny Mar 12, 2013

    "If you don't understand the technology you are using, you probably should not be using it. You still see people out there with open networks and default router passwords. Only one step above them are those still using WEP encryption. They are sheep waiting to be fleeced." - CaryEngineer

    Not so.

    I had no option but to setup an open network at home because the varied combination of OSes, hardware, yada-yada, left it impossible to use any encryption. I made sure that the WAP only permitted specified MAC IDs to access the network. Since retiring one of the computers I have been able to secure the network.

  • mattcli Mar 12, 2013

    Hilarious that their unofficial slogan is: "Don't be evil."

  • Nancy Mar 12, 2013

    So where does all that money go that was awarded to the state for violations of privacy?

  • Fed-up29 Mar 12, 2013

    I am actually sad they are getting rid of it. It helped me to find housing. I poured over countless photos of rental properties and some who would only show these beautiful interiors. but once i street viewed googled them i would find the homes outside were dumpy, in the wrong type of neighborhood for me and my family or just unsafe location wise. I hope they find a better way to keep a valuable asset.