Google's Failure to Destroy Private Data Leads to Furor in United Kingdom

By Ed Silverstein July 30, 2012

A UK data protection agency has “concern” that Google failed to destroy some of the payload data collected by its Street View vehicles – as the company had pledged.

“This information should never have been collected in the first place and the company’s failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern,” says a recent statement from the (UK) Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Google recently contacted the ICO to “confirm” it still has some payload data that was collected by its Street View vehicles – before May 2010.

“This data was supposed to have been deleted in December 2010,” the ICO said. “The fact that some of this information still exists appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010.”

Google wants to delete the remaining data. In response to a request for advice on how to proceed, the ICO said Google “must supply the data to the ICO immediately, so that we can subject it to forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action.”

The ICO said it is also contacting other data protection authorities in Europe and in other locations “to coordinate the response to this development.”

If desired, the ICO could fine a company for data breaches. "Google apologizes for this error," Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission fined Google $25,000 for impeding an investigation into how it gathered data while taking photos for its Street View mapping feature. Other nations are also looking into Google’s actions with its Street View service.

Google claimed it accidentally gathered the passwords and other personal data from unsecured wireless networks when it was collecting images and other information for its Street View feature in 30 different countries.

This week, Google said it just confirmed it still has some data from several nations (including the United Kingdom) and is letting authorities know that the data exists, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek. Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Australia are among the other nations that were involved in the incident.

On Friday, Google’s actions were called "clearly unacceptable" by Ireland's Deputy Information Commissioner Gary Davis, according to a report from Fox News. He adds that his office has "deep unhappiness" over the situation.

ICO recently reopened its inquiry into the Street View, after evidence was gathered in the United States.

Also, Privacy International said Google should be "hugely embarrassed" by the situation, according to the advocacy group’s spokeswoman Emma Draper. "The company's handling of the Street View episode has been a litany of disasters."




Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Contributor

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