googlespy Google admits it stole data, fined a petty $7 million

The fine may be small for the likes of Google; nevertheless, the company will have to pay a $7 million fine to settle a 38 state investigation into Google intercepting people’s wireless Internet during drive-bys of Google Map cars. 

On Tuesday it was reported by the Associated Press reported that Google would be paying $7 million (U.S.) in a lawsuit that covers 38 states along with the District of Columbia.  The company stole the data when Google map cars drove through neighborhoods and a rogue program would intercept data transmitted on Wi-Fi networks from 2008 until early 2010.

Google said they ceased the data grabs in May of 2010 when they admitted they were stealing the transmissions over Wi-Fi networks that were set up without passwords or little to no security in place.  Google claimed that the data gathered was really unintentional and was done by a sole engineer who had rigged a data-collection program that was supposed to collect basic anonymous data about Wi-Fi networks.

Even though Google admitted that they conducted their own inquiry into the data theft, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled last year that some Google supervisors did know about the employee’s decision to alter the data collection technique.

While the network spying was not necessarily the intention of Google as a whole it still caused uproar among people whose data may have been taken.  Google has apologized concerning the breach of trust, but insisted they still had not broken any laws with the rogue program.  Curiously, the individual who created the program to steal the data has remained unnamed in any of the litigation.

As part of the multistate lawsuit Google is to destroy all of the data gathered from the networks unless any pending lawsuits require some of the data to be saved.

Niki Fenwick, who serves as an official spokeswoman for Google, spoke about the agreement on Tuesday saying that Google has worked hard to respects people’s privacy, but that with this particular matter the company had failed.  She assured people that the company has addressed that particular issue so that it never happens again.  

In other parts of the world, other countries are just as angry over the whole ordeal.  In Canada it was reported that Google obtained full names of users logged on the unsecured networks along with their private telephone numbers.  France said they found very similar problems and even an entire private conversation between individuals that was saved for no apparent reason other than wild curiosity concerning the sexual nature of the text.

Critics of the lawsuit see the damages as nothing more than an insult to the victim's intelligence.  The amount awarded in this lawsuit amounted to a mild scolding for a company as powerful and massive as Google who will amass around $61 billion (U.S.) in revenue this year alone. According to a recent Associated Press report the $7 million fine Google is to pay amounts to about one hour’s worth of their daily revenue.