Google is considering a settlement offer from Belgium's federal prosecutor who said that Google breached a national law by illegally intercepting communication when it collected private data with its Street View cars. The owner of the most popular search engine has three months to accept the Aug. 12 proposal or the case may be taken to court, which has the power to impose higher fines and a prison sentence.
The proposed settlement was reported earlier in De Standaard.
"Google was offered the chance to pay Belgian authorities a penalty of 150,000 euros ($215,700) to settle a data-privacy case concerning the collection of wireless Internet data through its Street View service. Google has three months to accept the penalty; if it doesn't, prosecutors may take the case to court, where Google could face higher fines and perhaps even time in prison," reports Bloomberg.
Anthony House, a London-based spokesman for Google, said by telephone, "We have received an offer of extra-judicial settlement from the Belgian federal prosecutor and we have to study it carefully."
"We are profoundly sorry to have mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks," House said. "As soon as we realized what had happened we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities."
Google has been targeted by data-protection agencies across the European Union for its Street View program, which lets users click on maps to see photographs of roadsides. It was fined 100,000 euros in France for violating the country's privacy rules. The Dutch data protection agency last week said it may fine Google as much as 750,000 euros if the company doesn't comply with its demands. The U.K. privacy watchdog said on Aug. 16 that the Mountain View, California-based company has taken "reasonable steps" to improve its privacy policies following a U.K. audit.