Google Ordered to Pay 145,000 Euros For Collecting WiFi Data in Germany

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

Google Street View Car

From 2008 to 2010, it was discovered that Google had been collecting data from personal wireless networks as its Street View cars roamed the world’s streets.  Since the discovery was made public, a handful of countries have fined the American search giant for the illegal capturing of personal data, and now Germany has become the latest country to impose a fine on the company.

The 145,000 Euro ($189,230) fine that Germany has ordered Google to pay was the result of a probe by a Johannes Casper,  the Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, after German prosecutors originally dropped the case last year.  Caspar claims that Google captured personal data, including photos, emails, passwords, private chat logs, etc.,  and is “one of the most serious cases of violation of data protection regulations that have come to light so far”.

Google commented that “project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it… the fact that this nevertheless happened over such a long period of time and to the wide extent established by us allows only one conclusion: that the company internal control mechanisms failed seriously.”

145,000 euros is a small amount for Google to pay considering their most recent 3-month quarter saw $14 billion in revenue, and the recent $7 million settlement in the US over from the same wifi data collection breach.  The small fine in Germany is a result of the current law that limits fines for negligent data rule violations to 150,000 euros.

Johannes Casper expressed his concerns over the small limit and believes the amount is “totally inadequate for the punishment of such serious breaches of data protection… As long as violations of data protection laws are punishable by discount rates, the enforcement of data protection laws in a digital world with its high potential for abuse will be all but impossible.”


Sources: Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times

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Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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