Sometimes the big tech companies get a little ahead of themselves in their wars against each other and forget that they’re really in business to serve the community. It’s not really about beating the other guys, especially when it comes to jeopardizing Wifi privacy.
Google was caught red-handed spying on people’s Wi-Fi networks and claims it was the act of an engineer solely on his own. They settled a case this month that was brought by thirty-eight state attorneys general for the resulting emails, passwords, and browsing activity they collected during their spying.
It’s difficult to punish a company this big monetarily. Google was fined $7 million, but of course that’s really just pocket change to them. So they are also being ordered to undergo other restitution. They will throw an annual week-long privacy party for their employees, assumably so that they don’t forget the lesson learned. They will also need to set up privacy certification programs for some employees, and have refresher training for lawyers.
Additionally, Google has to instruct the public on how to make their Wi-Fi networks private and keep them safe. In other words, they have to show citizens how to practice good WiFi privacy and not to let the big tech companies like themselves snoop on them. This means they’ll never be able to do that same thing again, whether it was the scapegoat of an engineer acting on his own or not. It’s a great restitution.
Is this the proper restitution for one of the largest tech companies in the world and will it change anything? Much of this depends on what the truth is regarding what really happened. Was it really a rogue engineer acting on his own to snoop on everyone’s Wifi? Or was it really Google throwing the engineer under the bus once they were caught?
If it was really a rogue engineer, the problem is over and done with before it even had a chance to get started. If it was Google who wanted this snooping to take place, they’re having their legs swept out from underneath them. The $7 million fine will probably affect them the least. What’s going to hurt them is yearly privacy weeks where they and all their employees will be reminded of what they did wrong. They won’t ever be able to escape the punishment from breaching Wifi privacy.
Having to school the public on how to protect themselves and their privacy won’t hurt Google too much other than in man hours and some funds. It’s not so much of a punishment as just an action that fits the crime. Instead of using their knowledge to hurt the public, they’ll be using their knowledge to protect the public.
Let us know in the comments below what you think of Google’s punishments and how you think this will affect the practices of other big tech companies.