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Germany fines Google a tiny $190,000 over its Street View Wi-Fi snooping ‘mistake’

If regulators really want to deter Google from doing naughty things, they can start by fining the company more money.

Germany is fining Google $189,230 (145,000 euros) over the company’s public Wi-Fi data snooping, the news of which emerged in 2010.

Google, which called the snooping a mistake before pinning the blame on a rogue engineer, says it’s still sorry that it collected the data — even if it didn’t mean to.

“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,” Google said in a statement to VentureBeat

Street View

Above: Google’s Street View cars weren’t just taking photos of city streets.

“The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it. We cooperated fully with the Hamburg data protection authority throughout its investigation,” Google said.

The fine comes a month after Google made a $7 million settlement with U.S. states over the Wi-Fi snooping, and a year after the FCC fined the company $25,000 for obstructing its investigation of the case. Clearly, this is proving to be quite the costly mistake for Google.

But has it been costly enough? “In my view, this is one of the biggest data protection rules violations known,” Hamburg data regulator Johannes Caspar  told Bloomberg in a statement. Fining Google $189,230 for the “biggest data protection rules violations known” doesn’t seem particularly severe — especially since Google pulled in $14 billion last quarter.

Fortunately for Google, however, German data misuse fines are capped at 150,000 euros, which means German regulators couldn’t have fined Google much more money if even if they had tried.

Still, privacy and data charges against Google persist. Earlier this month the European Union recommended that member states start their own investigations into Google over the unified privacy policy the company introduced last year.

Photo: Flickr/Justin Taylor 


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