Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has joined in a $7 million settlement with Google that concerns Google’s nationwide collection of data from unsecured wireless networks between January 2008 and March 2010.
Missouri’s portion of the settlement will be approximately $324,000. By comparison, Google has 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.
Between January 2008 and March 2010, Google’s Street View cars, while taking pictures for its mapping service, collected data from unsecured wireless networks. Since March 2010, Google has discontinued the practice.
Under this settlement, Google agreed to destroy all data collected from unsecured wireless networks and to not collect unsecured wireless information in the future.
Missouri was part of the executive team that negotiated the settlement with Google on behalf of 39 states.
“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 in 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, as 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 but not using the Internet, disable your mobile device’s wireless connection.