Google Inc. (GOOG:US) is close to an agreement to pay about $7 million to settle allegations that the company improperly collected personal data for its Street View product, a person familiar with the matter said.
The company has reached an agreement in principle with more than 30 states, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The resolution could be announced as early as next week, another person said.
During a three-year period starting in 2007, the company improperly gleaned “sensitive personal information,” including e-mail and text messages, passwords and Web-use history, from non-secured Wi-Fi networks,the Federal Communications Commission said last year.
Google, operator of the world’s largest search engine, has been grappling with scrutiny by government officials around the world over how it handles private information. The FCC fined Google $25,000 last year for not cooperating with an investigation into the company’s collection of the data.
“We work hard to get privacy right at Google,” Nadja Blagojevic, a spokeswoman the Mountain View, California-based company, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue.”
Blagojevic declined to comment on a possible settlement.
Google said in May 2010 that it would stop using Wi-Fi information for Street View, which displays pictures of streets on Google Maps. At the time, the company said that it had collected the information by mistake.
The settlement with states could also involve changes to the Street View feature or how the data is collected, or some combination of these.
Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the Texas Attorney General’s office, and Nicholas Pacilio, a spokesman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, declined to comment on settlement talks.
Susan Kinsman, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Attorney General, said the office’s investigation into the Google Street View matter is “active and ongoing.”
Connecticut led the multistate investigation, which started in 2010 under former attorney general Richard Blumenthal, into Google’s Street View data-collection practices.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission ended its investigation of Google’s collection of data over unsecured wireless networks in October, 2010, after the company said it would improve privacy safeguards in the Street View mapping project.
In a separate matter, Google agreed in August to pay $22.5 million, the largest ever fine levied by the FTC, for breaching Apple Inc.’s Safari Internet browser in violation of a previous consent decree.
Google slipped less than 1 percent to $831.52 in New York yesterday, leaving the stock up 18 percent this year, compared with a 8.8 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.
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