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Schneiderman announces multi-state settlement with Google for violating privacy rights

by jmaloni

Press release

Wed, Mar 13th 2013 08:10 am

38-state agreement bans unauthorized data collection, requires Google to train employees on privacy and launch nationwide consumer education campaign

Schneiderman: This settlement addresses privacy issues and protects individuals who expect their information to be confidential

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman Tuesday joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in announcing a multimillion settlement with Google over its unauthorized collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide. Between 2008 and March 2010, Google took photographs for its "Street View" service and for use in future geolocation services. At the same time, Google collected and stored information including email and text messages, passwords and Web histories being transmitted over unsecured wireless networks without consent from the consumer.

Under the terms of the agreement, Google has agreed to secure and destroy the information it improperly collected, launch an employee training program to ensure its employees understand how to protect consumers and their information, conduct a national advertising campaign to educate consumers on how to protect their private information, and pay a $7 million fine to the states involved.

"Consumers have a right to protect their vital personal and financial information from improper and unwanted use by corporations like Google," Schneiderman said. "This settlement addresses privacy issues and protects the rights of people whose information was collected without their permission. My office will continue to hold corporations accountable for violating the rights of New Yorkers."

The settlement acknowledges that the information Google collected may have included confidential or private information being transmitted to or from private homes while the "Street View" cars were driving by. Google has since disabled or removed both the equipment and software used to collect such data from its "Street View" vehicles, and agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent.

The information collected has been secured and, under the terms of the agreement, will be destroyed. Further, Google agreed that the personal data its "Street View" cars collected will not be used in any product or service or be disclosed to any third party.

Other key elements of the agreement require Google to launch 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.

New York's share of the settlement is approximately $192,000. Other states participating in the settlement are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Assistant Attorney General Clark Russell assisted in the investigation, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

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