Business

Italy slaps Google’s hand with $1.4M fine for not clearly labeling Street View cars

Above: A Google Street View car (Subaru Impreza) at Google campus.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fallout from Google’s Street View project continues. On Thursday, an Italian regulatory agency said the tech giant has paid a fine of 1 million euros (about $1.4 million) for its 2010 image-and-data capturing in that country.

The key issue for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company was the lack of clear identification on its Street View cars. The vehicles have painstakingly crawled the Earth to capture street-level views that accompany the maps and satellite views on Google Maps.

“Cars belonging to the giant of Mountain View roamed Italy’s streets without being entirely recognizable as such,” the Italian Data Protection Authority said in a statement, “therefore not allowing the people present in those places to decide whether to be photographed or not.”

Google has agreed to clearly label Street View cars and to announce publicly when and where its cars will visit.

The company told Reuters that it has “complied with everything the [regulator] required of us at the time” of the 2010 incident.

That takes care of the unclear labeling of the cars in Italy, but Google may still be on the hook for the fact that its teams also captured private electronic communications in that country, as it did in others. In addition to street images, the cars electronically scooped up local Wi-Fi access points as a mapping aid – and private data was included in the haul. The company has blamed a software flaw for that action.

This is not Google’s first fine in Europe. In 2013, it was fined 145,000 euros (about $190,000) by Germany’s privacy chief for sweeping up emails, passwords, and other private data.

European regulators have complained that their fines are a barely-felt pittance for a company that has a market capitalization of about $400 billion. But that may soon change. The European Parliament has approved a major data privacy act that could lead to much higher fines for violations – up to 5 percent of a company’s annual sales.

And Google is still facing fallout in the U.S., including its appeal of a federal court decision last fall that it had broken federal wiretapping laws when it gathered the private data.

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