Historic Fine Imposed on Google by German Authorities for Privacy Issue

By Ed Silverstein April 22, 2013

The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information has fined Google about $190,000 because the company illegally recorded Wi-Fi networks in connection with the Street View service.

Data of unencrypted Wi-Fi connections was recorded, officials claim. The incidents took place between 2008 and 2010.

The captured data includes personal data, such as e-mails, passwords, photos and chat protocols, authorities said.

Google has been told to delete all of the illegally-captured data, authorities add.

“In my estimation this is one of the most serious cases of violation of data protection regulations that have come to light so far. Google did cooperate in the clarification thereof and publicly admitted having behaved incorrectly. It had never been the intention to store personal data, Google said. But the fact that this nevertheless happened over such a long period of time and to the wide extent established by us allows only one conclusion: that the company internal control mechanisms failed seriously,” Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said in a recent agency statement.

The regulatory agency would like to have fined Google more – but there is a limit by law how much the fine could total.

Google, however, said the data collection, was accidental.

"The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it," Google said in statement quoted by The Los Angeles Times and carried by TechZone360. "We cooperated fully with the Hamburg DPA throughout its investigation."

In addition, in March Google said it would pay a $7 million fine as part of a multi-state settlement in the United States related to the same incidents, TechZone360 added. Also, the FCC fined Google $25,000 for allegedly hindering an investigation into data collection practices, the report adds.

Also, European officials were called upon by German regulators to increase fines for such privacy violations, The New York Times reported.

The fine in the Google case was nevertheless the largest ever by European regulators in response to a privacy case, The NY Times adds.

Google says it wants to do the right thing.

“We work hard to get privacy right at Google,” Peter Fleischer, a Google attorney, said in a statement quoted by The NY Times. “But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue.”




Edited by Ashley Caputo

TechZone360 Contributor

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