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Google to pay Texas, 37 other states, $7 million for violating your privacy

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Texas, along with 37 other states and the District of Columbia, resolved a lengthy investigation into Google's collection of personal information from unsecured wireless routers at private residences and businesses.

Under the agreement, Google must pay $7 million to the states involved in the investigation. They are also required to destroy all the data that was collected.

According to Greg Abbott, the Attorney General of Texas, the information included e-mail and search histories.

"For two years, Google violated Texans' privacy rights and secretly collected personal information from their wireless routers," said Abbott. "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."

Google initially denied that its Street View vehicles were retrieving the information, but later admitted that it had "mistakenly" engaged in the practice.

The data collection was tied to the Street View project, which seeks to enhance the Google Maps platform by sending out vehicles across the nation to photograph residences, businesses and other improvements in neighborhoods.

According to the investigation, while the properties were being photographed, the Street View vehicles were also outfitted with special devices to scan and store data from wireless networks that were not password protected.

Google initially maintained that no emails, web search histories or other personal information was collected by the vehicles, and that the collected information was limited to data that identified the existence and location of a wireless network.

However, the State's investigation showed that Google also collected data that was transmitted by these wireless networks from 2010 to 2012.

In addition to the $7 million fine and destruction of data, Google must also notify users and obtain consent before collecting additional data, implement an employee training program highlighting network users' privacy and develop a public service campaign to educate network users about how to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.

If you have a wireless network in your home, the attorney general recommends you secure the network with a password and activate encryption features.

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