Privacy Law

Google fined for breaching data protection legislation

Google has admitted breaching privacy legislation by collecting personal data without authorisation. While capturing images for its Street View service, Google collected passwords, e-mail addresses and other private information through unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

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US authorities began investigating Google’s collection of personal data in 2010. At first, Google played down the incident, calling it an accident and explaining that only fragments of information had been stored. However, the detailed investigation revealed that passwords, e-mail addresses and other personal data had been collected by Google’s Street View  camera cars from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

The company stressed that the personal data have never been utilised for commercial purposes.

Google’s data protection policy

In 2010 Google admitted there were flaws in its data protection policy and the internet giant was also criticised in Germany for its actions. It should, however, be noted that there is no risk of Google being fined in Germany, as its actions are not illegal under German law.

Google reaches settlement

The US authorities’ two-year-long investigation ended with Google agreeing to pay a fine of 7 million dollars (5.4 million euros). The company also agreed to delete the data collected and to offer training to its employees on privacy and data protection.

Under the settlement Google will also be required to inform the public on how they can protect their personal data and to place advertisements about data protection in daily newspapers of the 38 US States which led the investigations.

The authorities hope that after reaching the settlement, Google will take its data protection and privacy obligations more seriously.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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