To recap: In 2009, Google came under fire for its Street View product, where the online services giant photographed homes and other buildings in numerous countries as part of its online mapping service, as individuals said the photos invaded their privacy. Then, in 2010, Google announced that, for more than three years — in more than 30 countries — it had been “mistakenly collecting” personal data from open WiFi networks as its vehicles roamed the streets taking photos for its Street View mapping service. Later, the company admitted the data collected — without individuals’ knowledge or consent — included entire e-mails and passwords. And it was revealed that “Google also recorded the street addresses and unique identifiers of computers and other devices using those wireless networks and then made the data available through Google.com.” In October 2010, the Federal Trade Commission announced that (pdf) it had closed an investigation into possible privacy breaches by Google’s Street View after the company pledged to stop gathering consumers’ e-mail, passwords and other personal data. In April, the Federal Communications Commission decided (redacted pdf) that it would not take enforcement action against the company over this data collection and retention, but it would fine Google $25,000 for impeding the agency’s investigation into the private data collected and retained via its Street View product.
The online services giant also faced questions from states over the data collection. Last month, the Washington Post reports that Google has reached a settlement (Connecticut pdf; archive pdf) with 38 states and the District of Columbia over the collection and retention of individuals’ personal data through its Street View product, but the company will only have to pay $7 million total and implement a privacy program.