Seven Years Ago, Google Promised to Stop Wiretapping Us. Now They Are Paying $13M For the Same Mistake

Published on July 23, 2019

Seven years ago, Google promised consumers and the FTC that it would stop wiretapping users after paying $17 million. Now, they are paying $13 million for doing it again.

Having recently agreed to pay $11 million to settle age-discrimination claims brought by 227 people who claim to have been denied employment, Google is now forking over another $13 million to settle a privacy lawsuit over its Street View program.

Street View is a feature that allows users interact with panoramic images of locations around the world. In other words, you can zoom in and out of a street within a state.

The agreement, if approved, would resolve a 2010 lawsuit over the program’s privacy violations. This would essentially end a decade worth of legal challenges, all based on the argument that the company’s collection of consumer data broke federal wiretapping laws.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Google has been hit with a lawsuit and fine of this magnitude, recalling a 2013 settlement where it agreed to pay $7 million for the collection of data of individuals in 38 states. The company at the time, had previously agreed to halt the collection of network data by its vehicles.

Good job, Google.

The lawsuit began when several people whose data was collected, filed a lawsuit against Google, after the company admitted to data collection by cars photographing neighborhoods for the program. Specifically, photographers were also collecting emails, passwords, and other private information from Wi-Fi networks in over 30 countries.

Literally the definition of wiretapping on a global scale.

Remember when Batman illegally wiretapped all of Gotham? In The Dark Knight film, Batman, portrayed by Christian Bale, has Alfred, portrayed by Morgan Freeman, turn all of Gotham into a mobile phone-based surveillance system, visualizing the entire city of Gotham, ultimately allowing him to hear and specifically pinpoint the location of every individual using their phones.

However, Google isn’t out of hot water yet, as they are about to be hit with what will most likely be a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, similar to TikTok, for violations of child privacy laws, as set forth by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). Google, the parent company to media giant, YouTube, has been the subject of privacy claims for quite some time with respect to how it handles children’s private data.

COPPA, originally passed in 1998, long before YouTube came into existence, is starting to present issues with respect to twenty-first century technologies such as video streaming, smart TVs, and smartphone applications.

FTC Chairman, Joe Simons, insisted that because of the “rapid technological changes,” it must do what is necessary to “ensure COPPA remains effective.” This is a change of pace in the area of cyberspace, where much of the law has not yet caught up to technology.

It is very strange that six years after Google agreed to end this practice and made public service announcements, it’s once again agreeing to do what others had assumed they already had,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the nonprofit research firm Electronic Privacy Information Center, in an interview with CNN Business.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

Read more

More GD News