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Google fined 100,000 euros by France for Street View's private data collection [Updated]

March 21, 2011 |  9:49 am

Google Street View car

Google has received its first penalty for improperly gathering and storing data collected by its Street View cars and bicycles, and more sanctions could be on the way.

A 100,000-euro fine, equivalent to about $141,300, was handed down to Google by the French government's technology and privacy group CNIL on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

The fine was levied against Google for acquiring personal data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks from 2007 to 2010.

The private data -- which included passwords, personal e-mails, online banking information and Web browsing histories -- was siphoned by Google's Street View cars and bicycles, which photograph 360-degree images of streets for Google's online maps.

So far, the CNIL is the only agency to fine Google over the improper data collection, but more than 30 nations have criticized the search giant for it, and at least two other countries in Europe could also issue fines, the Associated Press said.

Google has admitted to the wrongful data collection in the past and on Monday e-mailed the Technology blog a statement apologizing for the fiasco.

"As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks," said Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for Google. "As soon as we realized 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."

Google officials declined to comment further.

The AP said that the CNIL has given Google a window of two months to appeal the fine, though the company hasn't yet decided if it will or not.

CNIL officials said Google wasn't always forthcoming during its investigation into the Street View data collection, which began in 2009.

"They were not always willing to cooperate with us, they didn't give us all the information we asked for, like the source code of all devices in the Google cars," Yann Padova, CNIL's executive director, told the AP. "They were not always very transparent."

Between 2007 and 2010, Google collected more than 600 gigabytes of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks before realizing there was a problem, according to the AP.

[Updated at 9:55 a.m. with a statement from Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for Google.]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Google employee drives a Street View car around Palo Alto. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

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