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Google Is Fined by French Privacy Agency Over Street View

Google Fined by French Privacy Agency
Google has been targeted by data-protection authorities in the European Union for its Street View program, which lets users click on maps to see photographs of roadsides. Photographer: Ralph Orlowski/Bloomberg

Google Inc. was fined a record 100,000 euros ($142,000) for violations of French privacy rules by its Street View mapping service, the country’s data protection regulator said today.

Google’s infractions included collecting passwords and e-mails transferred wirelessly, the National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties said today in a statement. CNIL, as the regulator is known, levied its highest fine ever because of the gravity of breaches and “the economic advantages Google gained from these violations,” according to the statement.

Google has been targeted by data-protection authorities in the European Union for its Street View program, which lets users click on maps to see photographs of roadsides. The European Commission, the EU’s executive agency, plans more harmonized data protection rules across the 27-nation region. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission closed a probe in October after Google said it would improve its safeguards.

Google is “profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks,” Peter Fleischer, the Mountain View, California-based company’s global privacy counsel, said in an e-mailed statement. “As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities.”

Latitude Mapping Service

Google has two months to appeal CNIL’s penalty. While Google stopped collecting personal data transmitted by WiFi, the regulator criticized the company for continuing to use WiFi for its Latitude mapping service.

Google can delete the data now that the regulator has concluded the investigation, according to the company’s statement.

The French authority has the power to fine first-time offenders as much as 150,000 euros. Google’s fine topped a 45,000-euro penalty levied on Credit Lyonnais SA, part of Groupe Credit Agricole, in 2006, according to the agency’s website.

Google has sought to reconcile with French regulators on numerous fronts, negotiating deals with French publishers, musicians, screenwriters, playwrights, directors and other artists to ensure rights-holders are compensated when users of its services like YouTube access their works. In October, it settled an investigation by France’s competition regulator into advertising for traffic navigation sector.

Privacy regulators continue to review the Street View service in countries including Germany and Switzerland, where hearings took place in February over whether Google’s changes were sufficient.

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