France has slapped Google with a record €100,000 fine for collecting private information with its Street View cars.
Google told the world that somehow its Street View cars had been "mistakenly" trundling around the globe sucking up information from private citizens' unsecured home Wi-Fi networks. Incredibly, many countries accepted Google's weak excuses, including the British Data Protection Office.
France wasn't buying it, however, and fined the US outfit €100,000, the biggest fine its Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL) has ever imposed.
The French also decided that Google "had not refrained from using the data identifying Wi-Fi access points of individuals without their knowledge." It further decided that Google had received economic benefits from the data collection, which Google had earlier denied.
Google's chief privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer said in a statement: "As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks."
He added: "Deleting the data has always been our priority, and we're happy the CNIL has given permission for us to do so."
Deleting the data became a priority only after German authorities demanded to have a look at it. Google initially refused to hand it over and only admitted that it had snooped on private networks when it became clear that the Germans weren't backing off. It then said that none of the data were personally identifiable.
This too turned out to be cobblers and CEO Eric Schmidt was forced to admit that the data included such details as passwords, emails and even bank account information.