Google is still dealing with the fall-out from its “Wi-Spy” debacle (in which the company’s world-mapping Street View cars snooped on people’s Wi-Fi networks per the instructions of an engineer acting, according to Google, completely on his own). This month, it settled a case brought against it by 38 state attorneys general for collecting unsuspecting Americans’ emails, passwords and browsing activity. It agreed to pay a $7 million fine — which is basically Monopoly money for a company that probably made that amount in the time it took me to write this post — and more importantly, it acknowledged that what it did was a privacy violation.
Google agreed, moving forward, to throw an annual week-long privacy party for employees and to instruct Americans not to let neighbors free-ride on their Wi-Fi networks. Via the New York Times:
The new settlement, which requires Google to set up a privacy program within six months, is more specific. Among its requirements, Google must hold an annual privacy week event for employees. It also must make privacy certification programs available to select employees, provide refresher training for its lawyers overseeing new products and train its employees who deal with privacy matters…
You say “privacy week event.” I hear “privacy partay.” Suggested activities: “Seven Minutes in Google-Glass Wearing Heaven” and “Spin The Driverless Car.”
More seriously, Google needs to add a video to its “Good To Know” series:
Google must create a video for YouTube explaining how people can easily encrypt their data on their wireless networks and run a daily online ad promoting it for two years. It must run educational ads in the biggest newspapers in the 38 participating states, which besides Connecticut also include New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Ohio and Texas.
In other words, Google is going to teach naive people how to put passwords on their Wi-Fi networks.
The lawyers behind a class-action lawsuit against the company over Wi-Spy will certainly be happy to hear that Google has admitted to a privacy violation. Google has maintained in its defense against the class action that it did nothing illegal by gathering data from open Wi-Fi networks. Their argument: By leaving your Wi-Fi network open, you’re essentially shouting what you’re doing over the Internet to the world. That last line may well end up in their forthcoming educational YouTube video.
Also on Forbes:
Google Ordered To Teach America How To Put Passwords On Wi-Fi Networks – Forbes