Google has spent years cruising down roads to gather data for Street View, but it isn't just after photographic data. The Street View cars also collect information about local WiFi networks, and a 2010 lawsuit alleged Google grabbed too much data. After nearly a decade of legal wrangling, Google is putting this issue to rest by paying a mere $13 million. That's a pittance compared to the billions in damages many observers predicted years ago.
According to the class-action lawsuit, Google engineers in the late aughts added troubling protocols to Street View WiFi scanning. If the system found an unencrypted network (which was much more common in those days), it would collect "payload data" that could reveal what websites people were using. The company ended up with 600GB of this data. Google has always maintained this was a mistake, but at the same time argued that collecting such data from unencrypted networks was not illegal.
Google settled with 38 states for $7 million in 2013 to end a case stemming from the same issues. That agreement required Google to destroy any of the intercepted data remaining and end the practice. Although, Google says it stopped collecting data from open WiFi networks in 2010. The new settlement has the same stipulations, which shouldn't have any impact on Google six years after resolving the state case. The $13 million payout doesn't include money for the full class—don't expect a check in the mailbox. The 22 original plaintiffs will get some money, and you can bet the lawyers are getting paid.