ICO: we won’t be pushed to “knee jerk” Google decision

The UK’s data watchdog is refusing to bow to pressure to take action against Google over its Street View data collection, saying now is not the time for “knee jerk” reactions.

ICO: we won't be pushed to

Back in April, Google said it had collected data as its Street View camera car scanned for Wi-Fi connections. At the time, the Information Commissioner’s Office looked at a sample of the UK data, and declared it not “meaningful”.

Last week, Google was forced to admit by other countries’ watchdogs that it had collected more than bits and pieces of data, but had inadvertently grabbed email addresses, passwords and URLs from home Wi-Fi networks.

Since then, the ICO has come under renewed pressure to take action against Google.

“As a regulator, the ICO must take a calm and measured approach to the issue of data privacy and ensure that we do not get caught up in the emotive arguments which will only naturally take place around sensitive issues such as the inadvertent collection of data by Google Street View,” the ICO said.

We will not be panicked into a knee-jerk response to an alarmist agenda

“We must remain evidence-based and although our enquiries, along with the enquiries of our international counterparts, are taking longer than many people might like, it is of paramount importance that we get our decision right in order to ensure the public can be confident that their long-term privacy interests are being maintained,” it added.

The ICO said that none of its fellow watchdogs had yet taken action against Google, and noted that the Met Police had dropping its case. However, several European countries as well as US states are still investigating.

“Whilst we continue to work with out other international counterparts on this issue, we will not be panicked into a knee-jerk response to an alarmist agenda,” the ICO said.

The ICO reiterated that it was considering using its enforcement powers. However, that does not include the ability to issue fines, as the ICO claims the £500,000 penalty was not introduced until after the incident took place.

That means the only action the ICO can actually take is to serve a so-called enforcement notice, requiring Google to improve its data protection systems – which the web giant has already done in light of the negative attention, removing the Wi-Fi scanning equipment from its cars.

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