Google Fined £4.6 Million Over 'Street View' Data Violation

Google has been hit by a fine of £4.6m in the United States for using its Street View vehicle fleet to collect personal data without permission.

But rather than the controversial photos themselves, the fine relates to a different sort of privacy issue.

The search giant was found to have collected emails, passwords and web histories from home broadband networks between 2008 and 2010.

Google has not admitted wrongdoing, and said its fleet of vehicles picked up the data by accident and that it never sought to use it.

Instead it says that a single engineer included software code which accidentally collected the information from insecure WiFi networks.

"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," a statement from Google said.

"The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that the settlement "addresses privacy issues and protects the rights of people whose information was collected without their permission".

In a settlement with 38 US states, Google agreed to pay the fine and destroy the data. It has also launched a new training program that will give its employees a grounding in data security and privacy regulations.

In addition Google must run a "public service advertising campaign" about securing wireless networks at home.

David Gorodyansky, founder and CEO of digital security firm AnchorFree, said:

"This episode should stand as a testament to the need for all of us to take more control of our personal data online. We do our best to prevent intruders from getting into our homes by locking the doors and windows, we install alarms on our cars. The least we can do is take similar measures to protect our online data from strangers and would-be hackers."