Report: Google To Settle “WiSpy” Investigation With Attorneys General For Measly $7 Million

According to AllThingsD, Google is about to settle the so-called “WiSpy” investigation with 30 US state Attorneys Generals. Google will admit no wrongdoing and pay $7 million according to the report. The article says the settlement will be announced next week.

In early 2012, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concluded its own WiSpy investigation with no finding of liability against Google, but fined the company $25,000 for not cooperating with its investigation — a claim that Google aggressively disputed.

The WiSpy scandal was global in scope. If you’ve forgotten, it involved the capture of personal email and other private information as part of Google’s Street View WiFi data collection and hotspot mapping process.

The first revelation that Google had collected sensitive ”payload” information came in May 2010. Google cofounder Sergey Brin admitted the problem at Google’s I/O developer conference and characterized it as a “mistake.”

However, the FCC investigation and subsequent report on the matter revealed that the data capture was intentional and instigated by an engineer at Google who believed the data might be useful to Google later. Because the engineer invoked his 5th Amendment against self-incrimination, the FCC decided not to pursue a criminal case against Google.

Some have described the Google employee, referred to as “Engineer Doe” in the FCC report and subsequently revealed as Marius Milner, as a “rogue engineer.” However, he is portrayed in the report as someone doing a job he was asked to do.

The report reflected either duplicity or a condition of lax internal supervision at Google, as well as general disinterest in the privacy implications of the consumer payload data — at least among first-line supervisory personnel. Google upper management have repeatedly denied knowledge of the details of the payload data capture or that it was authorized.

Google, last year, created an internal ”Red Team” to “help ensure that our products are designed to the highest standards and are operated in a manner that protects the privacy of our users.” This was, at least in part, a response to the WiSpy scandal in the US and abroad.

We’ll have to see what the provisions of the settlement are when announced. Although a large-sounding number, the $7 million is relatively insignificant figure for Google, whose Q4 revenues were in excess of $14 billion.

With the end of this investigation, the majority of WiSpy cases have now been closed or settled.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Business Issues | Google: Critics | Google: I/O | Google: Legal | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile | Google: SpyView | Google: Street View | Legal: Privacy | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Durant Imboden

    Seven million bucks may be “measly” to Search Engine Land (or to state governments), but if Larry and Sergey want to hand over an even ten million in cash, I’ll happily scoop up the change from the bar.

  • Alan

    LAUGHABLE! You have to start thinking something is very smelly in the FCC/Google relationship!

  • Lakisha Caudle

    Sophie. even though Andrew`s blurb is impossible, on wednesday I got Maserati from having made $5769 this-past/four weeks and-in excess of, 10/k this past month. this is certainly the most comfortable job I’ve ever done. I actually started nine months/ago and almost immediately was bringin home minimum $83… p/h. I work through this link,, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide