Germany fines Google a tiny $190,000 over its Street View Wi-Fi snooping “mistake”

Ricardo Bilton 2013-04-22 6

Google Street View
If regulators really want to deter Google from doing naughty things, they can start by fining the company more money… 
Germany is fining Google $189,230 (145,000 euros) over the company’s public Wi-Fi data snooping, the news of which emerged in 2010.

Google, which called the snooping a mistake before pinning the blame on a rogue engineer, says it’s still sorry that it collected the data — even if it didn’t mean to.

“We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue,” a Google spokesperson told us.

“The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it. We cooperated fully with the Hamburg data protection authority throughout its investigation,” the spokesperson said.

The fines come a month after Google made a $7 million settlement with US states over the Wi-Fi snooping, and a year after the FCC fined the company $25,000 for obstructing its investigation of the case. Clearly, this is proving to be quite the costly mistake for Google.

But has it been costly enough? “In my view, this is one of the biggest data protection rules violations known,” Hamburg data regulator Johannes Caspar told Bloomberg in a statement. Fining Google $189,230 for the “biggest data protection rules violations known” doesn’t seem particularly severe — especially since Google pulled in $14 billion last quarter.

Fortunately for Google, however, German data misuse fines are capped at €150,000, which means German regulators couldn’t have fined Google much more money if even if they had tried.

Still, privacy and data charges against Google persist. Earlier this month the European Union recommended that member states start their own investigations into Google over the unified privacy policy the company introduced last year.

This post originally appeared on VentureBeat, our editorial partner in the Valley.

Image credit: flickr user Justin Taylor

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