Google pays $7M fine to settle Wi-Fi privacy case with states, including Ohio and Ky.

SAN FRANCISCO - Google will pay a $7 million fine to settle a multistate investigation into the Internet search leader's interception of emails, passwords and other sensitive information sent several years ago over unprotected wireless networks throughout the world.

The agreement announced Tuesday covers 38 states and the District of Columbia. Ohio will receive approximately $162,000 from the settlement.

The fine closes an inquiry opened in 2010 shortly after Google revealed that company cars taking street-level photos for its online mapping service also had been grabbing personal data transmitted over Wi-Fi networks that had been set up in homes and businesses without requiring a password to gain access.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the settlement illustrates the importance of the privacy of the individual in the digital age.

"While we all must do what we can to safeguard our own personal information, this settlement recognizes the privacy rights of individuals and serves as a reminder that this information cannot be collected without a person's permission," DeWine said.

Kentucky's Attorney General Jack Conway said his states part of the settlement should be around $315,000, and also requires Google, Inc. to campaign to help individuals better protect their privacy online.

"Among other things, this settlement requires Google to implement a public service campaign to educate consumers on how to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks, and to continue its privacy program," Conway said in a releas. "This is a fair resolution that recognizes the privacy rights of individuals whose information was collected without their permission."

The settlement is the largest penalty that Google Inc. has paid so far in the U.S. for the snooping. News of the penalty leaked out last week.

Google isn't acknowledging any wrongdoing in the settlement.

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