In May, 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. The data could include e-mail messages, passwords, or Web site visits. There was an uproar over the privacy implications. In June, the Washington Post reported, “Google said it may have collected personal information from its Street View mapping cars, according to a letter to lawmakers earlier this week. The firm also said it began collecting information from residential Wi-Fi networks three years ago and did not inform consumers directly that it was doing so.”
The online services giant faced questions from states, and Connecticut was among the states investigating the data collection. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that Google has reached a settlement with the Connecticut attorney general:
Attorney General George Jepsen said Friday his office reached a deal with the Internet company that allows him to begin settlement negotiations over whether Google violated state law. Last month Google rejected a subpoena issued by Mr. Jepsen’s predecessor, Richard Blumenthal, to hand over data the company collected when its Street View cars were within range of unsecured wireless Internet hotspots. […]
As part of the deal with Connecticut, Google said it wouldn’t contest the fact that its Street View cars had collected private user information including URLs of requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications or other information in 2008 and 2009, according to Mr. Jepsen.
A Google spokeswoman reiterated the company’s statements that it is “profoundly sorry” for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted wireless networks. […]
Mr. Jepsen said he is leading a 40-state coalition that is examining the issue, and that he is prepared to file a lawsuit if settlement talks break down.
The Federal Communications Commission said in November it was probing whether Google broke federal law in collecting consumer data via Wi-Fi networks. Another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, previously ended its probe and said Google had taken sufficient steps to prevent a recurrence.