Who knew that driving around city streets and collecting personal electronic data from the masses could be illegal? Certainly not Google, who has been fined US$7 million by 38 states in the USA for doing exactly that.
Between 2008 and 2010, Google's Street View cars accidentally gathered information from residential and commercial wireless networks, including passwords and other personal data.
Google's justification for the data mining was that it intended to only collect the names and numbers of routers in order to refine its location-based services, however a programming glitch allowed the Street View cars to eavesdrop on any unsecured networks within their range.
The California-based web search giant has agreed to destroy the data it collected in the United States and sponsor a public awareness campaign about wireless security. The company will also need to educate its employees on the finer points of privacy.
The US$7 million fine will be split up between 38 states, plus the District of Columbia. Google was also fined $25,000 by the FCC for impeding the investigation.
Google is also currently under investigation by European authorities for using its Street View cars to eavesdrop on unsecured networks in Western Europe, but an outcome has yet to be reached.
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