Google is approaching a settlement over Wi-Fi data tapping, being forced to cough up $7 million to some 30 U.S. states.
After a 2010 incident in which its Street View mapping cars collected passwords, among other personal data from home wireless networks, Google was accused of violating federal wiretap laws by "collecting unencrypted personal data that people transmitted over their wireless home networks". Google denies the claim, explaining it away as a technical mistake.
The $7 million payment will be distributed respectively amongst the states that played an active role in the FCC's investigation, led by the Connecticut Attorney General at the time, General Richard Blumenthal. For 'impeding' the FCC's investigation, Google was additionally fined $25,000, although that figure could rise if the Californian search giant is found to have shown due negligence that led to the technical error.
Most notably, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said last year Google still possessed personal data 'mistakenly' collected in 2010. In a statement, the ICO said: "The fact that some of this information still exists appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010".
The underhand way in which Google has dealt with the case raises obvious questions about the integrity of the company as a whole, initially denying that any of its Street View cars had collected personal data. At this point in the investigation, Google had already discovered the anomalous unsecured data to which the FCC's investigation was referring. However, with Glass just around the corner and a revenue of $50 billion for 2012, the fine represents nothing but a single drop in the ocean.