Google 1, Germany 0. German regulators were furious when it was found that Google’s street car was unintentionally collecting email, photos, and passwords from its citizens’ unprotected Wi-Fi networks — something Hamburg-based regulator, Johannes Caspar, called “one of the biggest data-protection rules violations known.” Yet, regulators could only muster a financial hand slap of 145 euros, or about 0.005 percent of the search giant’s annual profits.
Regulators couldn’t find any “criminal” violations for the data-stealing misstep, and German law has a maximum ceiling of 150K euros for privacy law negligence, according to Bloomberg. Between 2008-2010, Google’s street car, which photographs and maps cities with a 360 degree camera, had stolen valuable, yet unencrypted data. Google chief privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, claims it was unaware of the breach and did not use the sensitive information.
Of course, not everyone in the Eastern Hemisphere has privacy hangups, like this randy Australian couple who cheerfully waved at the Google street car while having (fake?) sex.
Google has been on a legal hot streak; it avoided potentially tens of millions of dollars in fines from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for antitrust accusations related to how it prioritizes its own products in search results. Politico’s Tony Romm has a thorough account of how Google hired government insiders to deftly navigate the federal investigation.
Google would have had a legal hat trick, were it not for a sizable $22.5 million settlement in 2012 for secretly collecting data from Apple’s Safari Internet browser.
Google is still embroiled with six European nations over its general privacy policies, so Europe may still get the lucrative fines it’s desperately seeking.