Google Fined 145,000 Euros Over Wi-Fi Data Collection in Germany

Google Inc., operator of the world’s largest Internet search engine, was fined 145,000 euros ($189,230) by a German regulator for collecting wireless-network data by its cars taking photos for the Street View service.

Google’s cars from 2008 to 2010 captured the data, including contents of e-mails, passwords, photos and chat protocols, Hamburg data regulator Johannes Caspar said in an e-mailed statement today. He had reopened the probe after prosecutors dropped a related criminal case last year.

“In my view, this is one of the biggest data protection rules violations known,” said Caspar. Google’s “internal control mechanisms must have severely failed.”

Google, based in Mountain View, California, has been fined by regulators around the world over the Street View Wi-Fi breaches, with the French privacy regulator levying a 100,000-euro penalty in 2011.

The company tightened up its systems to address the Street View issue, Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in a statement. The project leaders never wanted the data and didn’t use it or even look at it, he said.

Google is also being watch by privacy authorities as it debuts new services in competition with Facebook Inc. Earlier this month, six European Union regulators started “coordinated” enforcement measures over the company’s new privacy policy. Google last year introduced a uniform set of rules, unleashing criticism from regulators and consumer advocates.

Caspar said fines for negligent data rule violations are limited to 150,000 euros under German law. The limit should be raised in order to deter unlawful behavior, he said

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