Google to Pay $7M to Settle Wi-Spy Case With More Than 30 U.S. Attorneys General

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Google will soon settle with the attorneys general representing more than 30 U.S. states over its Street View cars collecting data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks, multiple sources said.


Google is to pay $7 million, to be distributed among the attorneys general, according to a person familiar with the matter. That person said the agreement is close to being finalized, and should be announced early next week.

Led by then-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, this particular investigation started in 2010. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen’s spokesperson said today, via email, “Our only comment about Google Street View is the investigation is active and ongoing.”

Google has said it never did anything with the data collected. A company spokesperson said today, “We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue.”

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which keeps track of the case around the world, at least 12 countries have investigated the issue, and at least nine of them have found Google guilty of violating their laws.

The Wi-Spy incident has taken years to play out. The actual data collection happened between 2007 and 2010. At first, Google denied that it had collected any payload data; then it admitted it had collected data “mistakenly.” Then, last year, it came out that the system was built knowingly by a “rogue engineer,” but even so, it had been approved. Later, Google said it found that a bunch of the payload data that it had said it deleted was still in its possession, and started giving it back to governments for their investigations.

John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog commented on our report via email: “Once again it looks like Google, the serial privacy violator, is buying it’s way out of a jam with what for the Internet giant is pocket change.” He said he looked forward to seeing the provisions of the settlement.

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