Google fined for privacy breach in France

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by CBR Staff Writer| 22 March 2011

Accused of collecting data for Street View service without the knowledge of users

French regulators have fined Google €100,000 ($142,000) for collecting private data over unencrypted WiFi networks without the knowledge of users for its map service Street View.

The Commission nationale de l'information et des libertes (CNIL) accused the search engine company of collecting private data such as e-mail exchanges and passwords without informing the users about it.

Google had said last year that the data was collected accidentally due to a programming error.

In May last year, the CNIL had asked Google to stop the practice and submit a copy of the information it had collected. The fine was imposed on the basis of that evidence.

This is the first time a regulator has fined Google for a privacy breach and the fine is the largest the French regulator has issued to date.

Google has admitted the error and has apologized for it.

Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said, "We are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks."

"As soon as we realized what had happened we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities."

French officials have also accused the search engine company of breaching privacy in operating the mobile app Latitude, saying users were not informed that Google tracked their movements for increasing its database.

CNIL also said that Google was not transparent during the investigation.

CNIL executive director Yann Padova said, "They were not always willing to co-operate with us, they didn't give us all the information we asked for, like the source code of all devices in the Google cars."

"They were not always very transparent."

Google can appeal against the fine in two months.

 

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