Google didn't delete all Street View Wi-Fi data

Google has failed to follow ICO instructions to delete all of its UK Street View data

Nicole Kobie
27 Jul 2012

Google has failed to obey an order to delete all the UK data it collected using the Street View camera cars.

Two years ago, Google admitted that it had collected snippets of passwords, email and other data while sniffing for Wi-Fi connections. The Information Commissioner's Office eventually found the company in breach of the Data Protection Act, saying it must submit to an audit and delete all the data.

Earlier this spring, the US FCC released its own report into the debacle, and as part of the ICO's still-running probe into revelations from the US regulator's investigation, the ICO asked Google to confirm that it had in fact deleted all the UK data. Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said it had.

Today Fleischer wrote to the ICO to admit the firm still held "a small portion of payload data", discovered as it re-scanned Street View storage disks.

The ICO will examine the data before Google finally deletes it, in order to "subject it to forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action". It chose not to fine Google for the initial privacy intrusion, and months later is still investigating data revealed in the course of the FCC investigation.

"The fact that some of this information still exists appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010," the ICO said. "The ICO is clear that 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."

Google failed to delete data from other countries as well as the UK, and the ICO is in talks with other regulators in the EU "to coordinate the response to this development".

While those sound like strong words, the ICO's head of enforcement Steve Eckersley wrote in his reply to Google that he was "grateful" for the information about the data, adding: "I welcome your commitment to continued cooperation with the ICO on this matter."

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