Google Admits Street View Project Violated Privacy

Via: NY Times


By DAVID STREITFELD
Published: March 13, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Google on Tuesday acknowledged to state officials that it had violated people’s privacy during its Street View mapping project when it casually scooped up passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users.

In agreeing to settle a case brought by 38 states involving the project, the search company for the first time is required to aggressively police its own employees on privacy issues and to explicitly tell the public how to fend off privacy violations like this one.

While the settlement also included a tiny – for Google – fine of $7 million, privacy advocates and Google critics characterized the overall agreement as a breakthrough for a company they say has become a serial violator of privacy.

Complaints have led to multiple enforcement actions in recent years and a spate of worldwide investigations into the way the mapping project also collected the personal data of private computer users.

“Google puts innovation ahead of everything and resists asking permission,” said Scott Cleland, a consultant for Google’s competitors and a consumer watchdog whose blog maintains a close watch on Google’s privacy issues. “But the states are throwing down a marker that they are watching and there is a line the company shouldn’t cross.”

The agreement paves the way for a major privacy battle over Google Glass, the heavily promoted wearable computer in the form of glasses, Mr. Cleland said. “If you use Google Glass to record a couple whispering to each other in Starbucks, have you violated their privacy?” he asked. “Well, 38 states just said they have a problem with the unauthorized collection of people’s data.”

George Jepsen, the Connecticut attorney general who led the states’ investigation, said that he was hopeful the settlement would produce a new Google.

“This is the industry giant,” he said. “It is committing to change its corporate culture to encourage sensitivity to issues of personal data privacy.”

Read more: here

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