Google close to a $7 million settlement with states over Wi-Fi snooping

Google is close to paying $7 million to settle charges with dozens of states for collecting private data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The deal has not been finalized but could be announced sometime early next week, the source said. The $7 million would be split among the roughly 30 states involved in the investigation.


Richard Blumenthal, now a Democratic senator from Connecticut, first led the investigation into the incident in 2010 when he was that state's attorney general. 

From 2007 to 2010, Google cars collected data from nearby unsecured Wi-Fi networks as they drove through neighborhoods taking pictures for the company's Google Maps Street View project. The data included Internet activity, passwords and other personal information.

At first the company said the data collection was unintentional, then said it was the work of a lone engineer who was acting without permission.

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigated the incident and was unable to conclude whether Google violated federal wiretapping laws. But the FCC fined the company $25,000, saying it "deliberately impeded and delayed" the agency's investigation into the case.

"We work hard to get privacy right at Google," a company spokesman said. "But in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue." 

The spokesman declined to comment on the possible settlement.