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Google Admits to Stealing Data and Gets Fined Only $7 million



/ 4 years ago

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Google was recently fined US$7 million for a lawsuit covering 38 American states including the District of Columbia. Google is reported to have driven through neighbourhoods with a rogue program intercepting all Wi-Fi transmitted data from people’s homes that was available from the street. This extensive unauthorised and intrusive data collection program was in operation from 2008 to early 2010. Google said that they had ceased all data collection by May 2010. They admitted to only stealing the transmissions of Wi-Fi networks with “little or no security in place”. The data was gathering was reportedly “unintentional” and the engineer who created the program had only planned to collect basic anonymous data about the Wi-Fi networks – apparently…

Even though Google held an internal inquiry the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) didn’t think this was enough and levied the fine against them. The FCC claimed Google supervisors knew about the problem and did not take action, while Google claims no laws were broken. The engineer who created the program has managed to remain anonymous for the entire trial. Google is now bound to pay the fine and destroy all the data gathered from this program unless it is needed as part of any pending lawsuits.

Google said it “has worked hard to respects people’s privacy, but that with this particular matter the company had failed” and that it hopes the issue never happens again. However, in Canada and in France Google has done similar things before in the past – stealing information and phone numbers from unsecured networks and nosing-in on entire private conversations because it found them interesting!

Critics say $7 million just is not enough. Google will be laughing at the magnitude of the fine and it is certainly no deterrent to stop them doing it again. Google is expected to make US$61 billion this year so the US$7 million fine is around one hour’s worth of their yearly income.

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  • The mighty have fallen before. Don’t count out Google’s chances just yet. What I find despicable is them nosing in on private chats.