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Google's Wi-Fi sniffing to result in $7 million fine

Slurp sparks states' slight slap

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Google is reportedly close to settling with the 30 US states that were pursuing it over the infamous StreetView Wifi data slurp.

In between practicing taking the decision seriously in public, there are probably fits of giggles breaking out in Google's boardroom, because according to Reuters, the proposed settlement is $US7 million.

That's a sum that's not even going to make lawyers rich, and based on its 2012 revenue of $US50 billion, it's about 1 hour, 13.5 minutes of the Chocolate Factory's income.

Google had already had a $US25,000 tickle from the FCC for stalling the probe the regulator launched, which ended with the regulator unable to determine whether any US federal laws were broken.

The states' action was led by Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal, and was launched in 2010.

The settlement proposal was unconfirmed at the time of writing, with Blumenthal's office merely telling All Things D that the investigation is “active and ongoing”.

For those that need a recap: in 2010, Google discovered that enterprising engineer Marius Milner had written code that captured not only the location of open WiFi hotspots, but also some of the traffic, on the basis that “it might be useful”. The data had been captured for three years before the sniffing was "discovered".

Investigations were launched in a number of countries, with varying outcomes. Or example, Britain eventually decided to clear Google, Australia attacked it with a wet lettuce, and France imposed a fine of €100,000.

Consumer Watchdog is upset at the rumoured deal, calling the $US7 million settlement “measly”: “Once again it looks like Google, the serial privacy violator, is buying it's way out of a jam with what for the Internet giant is pocket change,” its John Simpson wrote. ®

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