Google is said to be ready to pay $7 million, €5.4 Million to get several attorneys general in the US off its back, that is, to settle an investigation over its Street View Wi-Fi data capture fiasco.Though the matter has been resolved with agencies normally tasked with handling cases like this, several attorneys general found it worth their while to pursue matters further.
Google can't seem to get past the Street View Wi-Fi fiasco. Its cars captured payload data from open networks for a few years, something that went undetected until Google did a full review of the program.
The company then revealed its mistake, said it was never its intention to capture that data, added that the data was never used in any way and only part of it was viewed by a couple of people.
The data it captured was mostly garbled and unusable, though, because there was so much of it, entire emails, passwords sent via plain text and other sensitive data was captured.
The very same data could have been captured by anyone close enough to connect to the respective networks; it was not protected in any way.
Still, government agencies from around the world were worried. Several investigations proceeded, all were critical of Google, but none carried any huge penalty.
In the US, Google was investigated by the FTC, which found no reason to sue the company, then by the FCC, which was critical of the company, but likewise didn't sue.
But that was not the end of it; no attorney general worth his or her salt would pass on such a juicy story, one that could potentially be milked for plenty of votes, if said attorney general decides to follow a career in politics, which almost always happens.
The best example of this is perhaps ex-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who started this particular investigation. He's now a US senator, though he's still up to the same tricks.
Needless to say that $7 million is a rounding error to Google and, while the details of the settlement are yet to be revealed, the company probably won't have to change much in the way it does things.
But the attorneys general will then be able to boast about another "win." Meanwhile, for users, the hope is that Google did learn something from all of this, and that its internal policies are much better than the ones that allowed all of this to happen.
If the goal would have been to gather up private data, Google has much better ways of doing that than driving around town hoping to catch something. Rather, Google was just incompetent, at several levels, something much more detrimental to the company than some privacy conspiracy.