Google not only escaped criminal prosecution in Germany after its Street View cars were found to be capturing private wifi traffic, but it has now pretty much walked away scott-free as the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information fined it just €145,000 ($190,000).
The pointless fine (reported by Engadget) could probably be paid with the change found buried in the seats of the Streetview cars …
In what the company claimed was a mistake by a single engineer, the company’s Street View cars collected all the unencrypted wifi data they could gather. Since many people at the time (2006) left their wifi routers unprotected, that included private emails, website interactions and online chats.
It was a pretty spectacular failure to live up to the company’s motto Don’t be evil. Hopefully the embarrassment suffered by the company will provide sufficient motivation to guard against similar mistakes in future, because that fine – likely less than the annual salary of the engineer who made the mistake – certainly isn’t.