Google to pay $7M for personal info gathered by Street View vehicles

Anyone who’s looked to the Internet for directions or to get an idea of where they’re headed on a trip has likely seen Google Street View, which allows users to view actual photographs of a location while using Google’s map or direction service.

But attorneys general in 38 states, including Illinois, contend that along with pictures of the streets where Google’s vehicle traveled to take photos, the company also collected and stored data -- including email addresses, passwords and browsing histories -- about Internet users along the way.

On Tuesday, the attorneys general announced a $7 million settlement with Google over its collection of personal data while gathering Street View photos.

Under the agreement, according to a statement from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, Google has agreed to destroy the personal data it collected, which included emails, passwords and browsing histories shared over unsecured wireless Internet connections.

Google collects images for Street View using vehicles equipped with antennae and open-source software that travel all over the world to photograph homes, buildings and other landmarks.

The agreement addresses practices 2008 and March 2010, when Street View vehicles collected information for use in future geolocation services. But at the same time, Google was collecting and storing data frames and other “payload data” being transmitted over unsecured business and personal wireless networks, the statement said.

Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect payload data in Street View vehicles, and under the agreement, it must not collect any additional information without notice and consent.

Google has maintained it never used the data collected and information collected in the United States was not disclosed to third parties. Under the agreement, information was segregated and secured, and must now be destroyed.

In addition, Google must conduct employee training on privacy and confidentiality of user data for at least 10 years; and conduct a public service ad campaign to educate consumers about better securing personal information on wireless networks.