AG Buddy Caldwell: Google’s settlement with Louisiana is a victory for citizens’ privacy rights

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 12:00am

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said that Louisiana’s Constitution grants its citizens some of the strongest privacy rights in the country. “Louisiana’s Constitution clearly states that persons shall be secure in property, communications, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches, seizures, or invasions of privacy,” he said, noting that Louisiana’s own constitution has express privacy rights language that the federal constitution does not contain.

Caldwell’s comments came after he joined 38 states and the District of Columbia in a settlement with Internet giant Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.

Google’s Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected network identification information for use in future geolocation services. At the same time, Google collected and stored data frames and other “payload data” being transmitted over those unsecured business and personal wireless networks.

While Google represented it was unaware the payload data was being collected, the agreement of voluntary compliance it signed with the states Tuesday acknowledged the information may have included URLS of requested Web pages, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network user while the Street View cars were driving by.

Caldwell said he believes the settlement is a fair resolution of the states’ complaints and recognizes the privacy rights of individuals whose information was collected without their permission.

Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles, and agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent. The information collected was segregated and secured, and under terms of the agreement, will be destroyed as soon as legally practicable. Further, Google agreed that the payload data was not used, and will not be used, in any product or service, and that the information collected in the United States was not disclosed to a third party.

Google has agreed to pay $7 million to the 38 states and the District of Columbia. Louisiana’s portion is $123,585, which will help offset the costs and expenses of this investigation with Google and similar Louisiana consumer and business-related matters being handled by the Attorney General’s Office. The privacy of individuals is increasingly at risk due to the ever more widespread collection of personal information. State law requires that the Attorney General’s Office be notified of certain security breaches of computerized data containing personal information. Caldwell’s office actively monitors these security breaches and consumer complaints in an effort to protect citizens from identity theft and other violations of individuals’ rights to privacy. 

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