Google fined for privacy breach in France

Google hit by record-breaking fine after accidental capture of personal data

The French data privacy regulator, the CNIL, has handed Google a record-breaking fine of €100,000. The fine comes after Google collected private information while assembling its Street View service. Since its launch in 2007, the service has been the subject of fierce controversy over how the pictures it displays could breach privacy. But, in 2010, Google admitted that the specialist equipment in the adapted vehicles taking the pictures had accidentally captured unencrypted personal data from WiFi networks, such as email exchanges, user names and passwords.

Having decreed that this represented unfair collection’ of information under French law, the CNIL (National Commission for Information Freedom) decided to impose the fine, the largest that the regualtor has handed down since it was granted the power to impose financial sanctions in 2004. On its website, CNIL says that it gave Google formal notice to regulate the situation regarding the capturing of personal data but ultimately considered that Google did not act within the the given time-frame and has thus issued the fine.

Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, says: “As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks. As soon as we realised what had happened, we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. Deleting the data has always been our priority, and we’re happy the CNIL has given permission for us to do so.”