March 12, 2013
Attorney General Chris Koster joined in a $7 million settlement today with Google, which collected data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide between January of 2008 and March of 2010.
Missouri was part of the executive team that negotiated the settlement with Google on behalf of 39 states. As part of the settlement, Google agreed to pay $324,000 to Missouri. By comparison, Google paid a $141,300 fine to France in 2011 and a $25,000 fine to the Federal Communications Commission in 2012 for the same conduct.
While taking pictures for the Google mapping service between January 2008 and March 2010, Google’s Street View cars collected data from unsecured wireless networks. Google discontinued the practice after March 2010. Under this settlement, Google agreed to destroy all data collected from unsecured wireless networks and to not collect unsecured wireless information in the future.
“I was concerned for the privacy of Missourians when we learned of Google Street View’s data collection,” Koster said. “We were pleased that Google agreed in 2010 to stop collecting the data. Thanks to this settlement, all the data Google improperly collected will be destroyed, so Missourians will not have to worry that their private information could be used without their knowledge.”
Koster said Missourians can protect their personal data and prevent others from accessing their network by taking the following steps:
•Change the router default password: Many wireless routers come with default passwords that others may know or be able to figure out easily. Change the password to your router to a unique combination of symbols, numbers and letters that only you know.
•Activate the router firewall and turn on encryption. Check your router’s instruction manual or website to learn how.
•Only log in or send personal data to fully encrypted sites when using a public Wi-Fi network. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https:// at the beginning of a site’s web address (the “s” stands for “secure”) and a lock icon at the bottom or top of your browser window. Wi-Fi “hot spots” in public spaces such as coffee shops, hotels and airports are not secure, since most do not require a password. Even for those that do require a password, computers may be vulnerable to anyone else on the network.
•If you are in a public Wi-Fi area and are not using the Internet, disable your mobile device’s wireless connection.