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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Google Admits to Gathering Private Data from Personal Computers

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On March 12, Google admitted to states attorneys general the Company had violated people’s privacy by collecting the personal data of private computer users as it performed the Street View mapping project, says the New York Times. Among data “captured” from the unsuspecting computer users were email and other passwords, and other personal information. Exactly what information Google captured the Company has not completely divulged or surrendered at this time.

Google agreed to settle the case brought by 38 states and was fined a mere $7 million. (The Company nets $32 million per day per The New York Times.) The states want Google to know they are carefully observing Google’s behavior vis à vis personal privacy, and according to Scott Cleland (consultant, consumer watchdog and blogger. See www.precursorblog.com), there’s a line the states want Google to know it should not venture beyond. (NYTimes, 3/12/13)

Some critics, Streitfeld says, are calling Google “a serial violator of privacy.” (NYTimes, 3/12/13) Still, $7 million to Google seems to many observers a mere slap on the wrists, as the Company promises sensitivity relative to the privacy of personal data. Seven million is, in all reality, not even a slap on the wrist, but perhaps a nasty look in Google's direction. This battle is not the first nor the last to be fought by Google over privacy issues. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) penalized Google $22.5 million for breaching the privacy settings in the Safari browser. And while this battle may be over, issues with the forthcoming Google Glass, “the wearable computer in the form of glasses,” may bring Google back into court in the future. (NYTimes, 3/12/13)

Once again, the benefits of our more technologically advanced society, also hold some extreme risks, including invasion of privacy and identity theft. Hopefully, ways to more adequately secure our personal information will come to forefront in the years to come, and ways to restrict and punish those who violate our privacy will have a little more teeth.