Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced Tuesday that Internet giant Google, Inc., has agreed to a $7 million settlement with 38 states, for unauthorized collection of data using its "Street Views" vehicles.
Connecticut headed an eight-state committee that investigated the issue, and will receive $520,000 for Connecticut's general fund. Google has said it was "mortified" by the mistakes, which gathered fragments of emails, computer identifying data, and other "payload data." According to Google's 10 page Assurance of Voluntary compliance, that could include the addresses of requested web pages, partial or complete emails and "any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user" as the Street Views vehicles passed along public roadways.
The data collection occurred "without the knowledge of Google executives" or their legal advisors, the agreement says.
Jepsen, in a press conference, said the practice was first discovered in Germany, two years ago. Several European governments have analyzed the collected data, but so far, the data collected in the U.S., has been kept "segregated and secure" and not disclosed to any third party.
Jepsen said the negotiated settlement will require Google to educate the public about the importance of using encryption and passwords to secure WiFi Networks the wireless home and business networks which are used to connect to the Internet.
"Consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy," Jepsen said. The agreement, he added, "recognizes those rights and ensures that Google will not use similar tactics in the future to collect personal information without permission from unsuspecting consumers."
The AG's office is representing the Department of Consumer Protection, which signed the agreement March 11. On March 8, it was signed by Google's General Counsel Kent Walker.
Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein, in a written statement, said that because of the computer-search giant's leadership and influence on how people use the Internet, "Google must also show leadership in minimizing security and privacy risks to consumers who take advantage of the Internet." He added that by complying with the agreement, Google can educate the public about "avoiding and reducing cyber-risks."
Jepsen has made consumer privacy issues a priority issue since taking office in 2011. "I had no idea that the legal aspects of privacy would become such a major concern when I took office," he told The Law Tribune.
As part of Google's settlement, it will create a "how to" video on YouTube explaining the methods of encrypting and securing wireless networks. It has promised to run daily online ads for two years promoting this video, and add links to its Google Public Policy Blog explaining the value of encryption. The agreement pledges to also produce newspaper ads and an educational pamphlet.