Google Pays Another Tiny Fine In Europe — $1.4M — For Street View Privacy Concerns

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Google has paid a €1 million ($1.4 million) fine in Italy levied by the country’s data protection watchdog for complaints relating to its Street View street-level image capturing cars that date back to 2010.

At issue was a failure by Google to make its Street View cars clearly identifiable. In 2010, the watchdog ruled that the Street View cars must carry signs or stickers to indicate that they were capturing photographs.

It had also stipulated that Google must to publicize the locations its cars would be visiting ahead of time, on its website and in local news media — so Italians could choose to avoid the risk of being photographed.

The fine also relates to Google’s Street View cars accidentally recording communication data as they went about their mapping business in the country. Last April Google was fined around $190,000 in Germany over similar Street View privacy concerns relating to the harvesting of additional data such as Wi-Fi passwords.

The Italian watchdog said it received many complaints about the privacy infringement of Google’s Street View cars, and yesterday said it had imposed a fine of €1 million on Google — which the company paid a few weeks ago.

The regulator said Google has since promptly adopted the requested measures.

In determining the level of the fine to impose on Google, the data protection authority said it took into account the company’s “consolidated revenue of over $50 billion”. But, even so, $1.4 million is another drop in the ocean for a company whose market cap broke $400 billion earlier this year.

In a statement given to Reuters, Google noted that the fine related to a case dating back to 2010, and added: “We complied with everything the [regulator] required of us at the time.”

Google has also previously been fined in Europe on privacy grounds relating to its early 2012 decision to unify the privacy policies of more than 70 different products.

Google was fined around $200,000 in France in January for privacy infringements relating to that decision. Spain also levied a $1.3 million fine back in December for the same issue.

Even cumulatively such amounts pale into insignificance for a company of Google’s size — underlining the regulatory difficulties of reigning in any overreaching behaviour by the U.S. tech giant.