Google will pay a $7 million fine to settle a multistate investigation into the Internet search leader's interception of emails, passwords and other sensitive information sent several years ago over unprotected wireless networks throughout the world.
The agreement announced Tuesday covers 38 states and the District of Columbia, including Texas.
It closes an inquiry opened in 2010 shortly after Google revealed that company cars taking street-level photos for its online mapping service also had been grabbing personal data transmitted over Wi-Fi networks that had been set up in homes and businesses without requiring a password to gain access.
"For two years, Google violated Texans' privacy rights and secretly collected personal information from their wireless routers. Today's agreement requires Google to destroy any personal data that was improperly collected and imposes important new privacy protections that govern the Street View program going forward," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Those privacy protections include notifying network users and obtain their consent before using vehicles to collect any additional "payload data," implementing an employee training program that highlights network users' privacy and maintain the training program for the next 10 years and developing a public service campaign to educate network users about how to better secure their personal information while they are using wireless networks.
It's the largest penalty that Google Inc. has paid so far in the U.S. for the snooping, although the company isn't acknowledging any wrongdoing in the settlement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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