More important, just because technology has changed how we live doesn't mean our expectations of privacy should be diminished. Light also consists of radio waves. If I leave my curtains open at night, thus broadcasting radio waves outside my house, and someone can stand on the sidewalk across the street and look in, that's rude, but probably not something I can sue them over The basic technology behind glass windows hasn't changed much in the last few decades, I should expect that people can see inside my house if the drapes aren't drawn.
But I shouldn't expect them to be standing on the sidewalk with a digital video recorder and a zoom lens, capturing what's going on behind closed doors. That is what Google was doing, metaphorically at least.
As I wrote just a week ago, though, even if this fine were 100 times bigger -- heck, 1,000 times -- it would make very little difference in Google's behavior. No, I don't think it'll be spying on anyone's Wi-Fi networks again any time soon. But impersonal punishments like these carry little weight. It's just too easy to hide behind the corporate veil to escape personal responsibility. The Supreme Court may have decided that corporations are "people" when it comes to free speech (and campaign donations), but these entities seem to magically transform themselves into vapor when it comes to being accountable for the actions of actual people inside them.
Or maybe they're really unicorns.
Is a $7 million fine for Wi-Fi spying good enough? Weigh in below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "If Google were a hacker, it'd be going to prison," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.