Feeds

German watchdog whacks Google with PIDDLING FINE over Street View slurp

'Discount rate' punishment won't deter ad giant, rages Hamburg commish

The Power of One Infographic

Google has been fined just €145,000 for the unauthorised, "negligent" slurp of payload data its fleet of Street View cars captured from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in Hamburg, Germany.

Regulatory offence proceedings were undertaken by the Hamburg data watchdog in November last year leading to a penalty being imposed on the ad giant today.

"In my estimation this is one of the most serious cases of violation of data protection regulations that have come to light so far," said Hamburg's information commissioner Johannes Caspar.

"Google did cooperate in the clarification thereof and publicly admitted having behaved incorrectly. It had never been the intention to store personal data, Google said.

"But the fact that this nevertheless happened over such a long period of time and to the wide extent established by us allows only one conclusion: that the company internal control mechanisms failed seriously."

However, the commissioner's office complained that the sanctions provided by Germany's Data Protection Act were, in effect, laughable by describing the punishment for such breaches as "totally inadequate".

It explained that the watchdog can only fine a multinational up to €150,000 for negligence, or up to €300,000 for intentional breaches of data protection law in Germany.

Caspar griped that Google and other companies that break the rules were punished with "discount rates" making the likelihood of potential abuse of the legislation much higher.

He added that a rewrite of the current data protection law proposed by Brussels' Justice commissioner Viviane Reding - where corporations can be slapped with maximum fines set at 2 per cent of a company's annual revenue - would be welcomed as a better deterrent to such violations.

Google said it would not dispute the fine. The company's privacy counsel Peter Fleischer added: "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. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it. We cooperated fully with the Hamburg DPA throughout its investigation."

Last month, Google reached a peanut-sized $7m settlement with 38 US states, after its controversial Street View cars collected payload data including emails and passwords from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks across America.

Here in the UK, the Information Commissioner's Office re-opened its own investigation of Google's Street View tech in June 2012 after the Federal Communications Commission in the US concluded that it seemed "likely that such information was deliberately captured" by the prowling surveillance vehicles.

The ICO told The Register in March that its investigation was "ongoing", but added that it was yet to decide if any further action would be taken against Google. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.