Thursday, April 18, 2024

Germany Fines Google Just $189,000 for Wi-Fi Snooping

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A German regulator says that Google’s accidental collection of private data via its Street View cars was one of the biggest privacy violations ever. Still, the German government fined the company only 145,000 euros for the offense.

Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar reported, “After years of deliberation, a German provincial privacy regulator has fined Google €145,000 ($189,000)—nearly the legal maximum of €150,000—over its Wi-Fi scanning scandal. On Monday, Hamburg’s data protection commissioner, who led German and European data protection officials in investigating Google’s actions, said in a statement that Google’s internal privacy mechanisms ‘failed seriously.'”

Kevin J. O’Brien with The New York Times added, “Johannes Caspar, the data protection supervisor in Hamburg, said the fine, which was close to the €150,000, or $195,000, maximum he could legally impose, was woefully inadequate to stop the collection practices of companies as large as Google. The fine levied by Mr. Caspar, the largest assessed so far by European regulators over privacy concerns, amounts to roughly 0.002 percent of Google’s $10.7 billion in net profit last year. ‘As long as violations of data protection law are penalized with such insignificant sums, the ability of existing laws to protect personal privacy in the digital world, with its high potential for abuse, is barely possible,’ Mr. Caspar said.”

BBC News noted, “The search giant said it unintentionally collected data including emails, passwords and photos. Google has said it never intended to store the personal data, which had been captured in 2008-10, while the company gathered material for its Street View service. The information has since been deleted, the data protection agency said.”

According to The Register’s Kelly Fiveash, “Google said it would not dispute the fine. The company’s privacy counsel Peter Fleischer added: ‘We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it. We cooperated fully with the Hamburg DPA throughout its investigation.'”

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