"As long as violations of data protection laws are punishable by discount rates, the enforcement of data protection laws in a digital world with its high potential for abuse will be all but impossible," said Germany's commissioner for data protection and freedom of information Johannes Caspar after regulators fined Google close to the maximum amount for privacy violations.
Google, which earned $14 billion in revenue in the first quarter, could have been fined $195,860 for collecting personal data while assembling data for its Street View mapping program, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Google agreed to a $7 million settlement in the United States for the same violations while collecting data for Street View.
Google said the data collection was inadvertent and that it never looked at the data. Nonetheless, Caspar said Google was slow to change its data collection process after it realized what was happening.
"It had never been the intention to store personal data, Google said. But the fact that this nevertheless happened over such a long period of time and to the wide extent established by us allows only one conclusion: that the company internal control mechanisms failed seriously," Caspar said.
"In my estimation this is one of the most serious cases of violation of data protection regulations that have come to light so far," he said.
Google has since announced internal efforts to make sure the violations would not be repeated.
"We work hard to get privacy right at Google," Peter Fleischer, Google global privacy counsel, said. "But in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue."
"We never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it," he said. "We cooperated fully with the Hamburg D.P.A. throughout its investigation."
Google said it would not appeal the fine.