After allegations were raised that Internet search firm Google was gathering people’s personal data from various wireless networks, North Carolina’s attorney general and a group of other attorneys revealed new privacy measures against the firm. In addition, the company was issued a fine of $7 million; about $151,000 of this will be paid directly to North Carolina.
The accusations arose from the fact that Google vehicles employed in the task of collecting photographs for its Street View mapping application were also gathering information from unsecured business and private wireless networks. After being accused, Google promised that it would destroy the information it had collected in addition to paying the fines. Even though this business litigation did not involve an explicit breach of contract, it still resulted in the assessment of significant penalties.
Modern data technology and business practices often fall into unexplored legal territory, but that does not mean that companies do not have to protect themselves. As this case shows, new privacy protections may be leveled against firms at the discretion of state attorneys. Although Google’s large revenues mean that these fines will not seriously affect its profitability, smaller firms that deal with information technology and other burgeoning fields may have to be careful.
The fact that firms aren’t breaking any particular laws may not matter to courts and state legislatures that decide to retroactively assess them large fines or cite them for procedural violations. As a result, many CEOs and corporate bosses seek advice from legal professionals before embarking on major new projects or implementing new technologies that might fall afoul of consumer protection laws or general public opinion. In North Carolina, people who are involved in business litigation may find it helpful to consult business litigation attorneys who may recommend courses of action.
Source: Triangle Business Journal, “Google to pay fine to N.C. for collecting unauthorized data,” Jason deBruyn, March 12, 2013