These days, it seems hard to be a big business in the tech industry without getting taken to court one way or another — or in Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) case, one way and another. Many U.S. states have joined forces to challenge Google’s data collection methods, especially in regards to its mapping service, and force Google’s hand.
Almost anywhere Google’s gone, it’s faced scrutiny over the way it puts together its Google Maps. In the U.S., there was particular trouble over how the company gathered “sensitive personal information” over non-secured Wi-Fi networks.
Google was said to have gleaned personal information when its cars drove by taking pictures for Google’s Street View feature. The cars may have picked up data from emails, privately transmitted information, and the locations of requested Web pages.
The investigation into Google’s methods has been ongoing, and the Federal Communications Commission found some of the improper activity to have taken place over a period of three years starting in 2007. It has already fined Google $25,000 for not cooperating with the investigation.
Now Google has reached a $7 million settlement over the claims with the 38 states involved in the case as well as with the District of Columbia. Spokespeople for the attorney generals from several states would not comment on settlement talks earlier this week, but it appears they have they have gone smoothly.
As part of the settlement, Google will have to educate its employees on privacy issues related to user data, and it will also have to sponsor a national public-service campaign on wireless network security and methods of protecting of personal information.
Google will also seek out and destroy the stored information that it acquired through the challenged means. This includes data stored in the U.S.-based Street View vehicles between 2008 and March 2010.
Google had also been targeted by the Federal Trade Commission, which ended a related investigation in 2010 after the company said it would change its data-collection methods. Since then, Google has removed the capability for its cars to collect data from wireless networks in the way they had previously.
With the government and states gunning from one side, and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) wielding numerous patent cases on the other, Google will likely remain quite steeped in legal matters for some time to come, even if it can settle a case here and there.
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