NJ Joins Multi-State Settlement With Google Over Privacy Allegations

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New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa

New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa

TRENTON — New Jersey has joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Internet giant Google that resolves allegations Google improperly collected private data from consumers for its Street View map product, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today.

New Jersey’s share of the Google settlement is approximately $147,000, which will be used to fund consumer protection initiatives.

According to Chiesa, Google is alleged to have collected data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.

Google’s Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected network identification information for use in future geolocation services. At the same time, Google collected and stored other important personal data being transmitted over unsecured business and personal wireless networks within range of those vehicles.

While Google claimed it did not know personal data was being collected, the company acknowledges in a settlement agreement with the states that information it collected may have included URLS of requested Web pages, partial or complete e-mail communications, and confidential or private information being transmitted by network users while the Street View cars were driving past.

“This settlement is significant because it recognizes the privacy rights of individuals whose information was collected by Google without their permission,” said Chiesa. “This is a fair resolution of the states’ complaints, and should send a message to the industry about the importance of respecting the privacy of consumers.”

Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect personal data from its Street View vehicles, and agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent.

The information collected was segregated and secured, and under terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as is legally practicable.

Further, Google agreed that the so-called payload data was not used, and will not be used, in any product or service, and that the information collected in the U.S. was not disclosed to a third party.

Other key elements of the agreement require Google to run an employee training program about privacy and confidentiality of user data, and continue the program for at least 10 years. Google also must conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.

Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells, assigned to the Division of Law’s Csonumer Fraud Prosecution Section, handled the Google matter on behalf of the State.

Connecticut was lead state in the multi-state Google investigation. In addition to New Jersey, other states participating in the settlement include: Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

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