Google has been hit by a $7 million fine after it acknowledged it had intercepted emails, passwords and other personal information from computer users via its Street View mapping program. The case covers 38 states—including Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but not Idaho—where households and businesses unknowingly had some of their personal data and communications accessed by Google.
The search engine giant was found to have collected emails, passwords and Web histories from home broadband networks between 2008 and 2010. Google acknowledged Wednesday the privacy breach had occurred but blamed a single engineer for including software code that accidentally collected the information from unsecured WiFi networks.
“We work hard to get privacy right at Google,” the firm said in a statement. “But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address this issue. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it.”
Consumer Watchdog described the fine and conditions imposed as inadequate for the multi-billion-dollar company.
"The $7 million penalty is pocket change for Google," said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog privacy project director. "Asking Google to educate consumers about privacy is like asking the fox to teach the chickens how to ensure the security of their coop."