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Google fined £124,000 for Street View slurping German Wi-Fi data

22 Apr 2013
Google Street View car

Google has been fined £124,000 by German data protection regulators in Hamburg for the collection of Wi-Fi data by its Street View cars, in a response that is noticeably more hardline than that taken by UK authorities.

Google landed itself in hot water several years ago when it was revealed its cars had slurped data from open but private Wi-Fi network. Several nations opening investigations into the incidents but in the UK the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) stopped short of any fines against Google.

However, on Monday Hamburg data regulator Johannes Caspar said he was taking a tough line against Google given the systemic failures at the firm to stop the data collection taking place.

“In my view, this is one of the biggest data protection rules violations known,” he said. Google’s “internal control mechanisms must have severely failed”, he added, according to widespread reports.

Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, said the firm admitted it had made mistakes in the incident and accepted the fine.

"We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue," he said.

"The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it. We cooperated fully with the Hamburg DPA throughout its investigation."

The Street View incident has since been reopened by the ICO since its initial investigations after it came to light that Google may well have known about the data collection, having previously said it was unaware of the capabilities in its technology.

The data colleciton was blamed on a rogue engineer creating code without approval from management, but an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US found evidence this was not the case.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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