Google Admits Keeping Street View Wi-Spy Data


ICO calls for the data to be delivered immediately

Google has admitted that it has not deleted all of the data that it collected from Wi-Fi networks through its Street View cars in 2010.

In a letter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Google apologised for the error and said that it was fully committed to working with the privacy watchdog.

The ICO, which recently re-opened its investigation into the ‘Wi-Spy’ incident, has said that the development is a “cause for concern” and called for the company to deliver the data immediately.

Google Wi-Spy Data

“In recent months, Google has been reviewing its handling of Street View disks and undertaking a comprehensive manual review of our Street View disk inventory. That review involves the physical inspection and re-scanning of thousands of disks,” read Google’s letter. “In conducting that review, we have determined that we continue to have payload data from the UK and other countries. We are in the process of notifying the relevant authorities in those countries.”

“Google would now like to delete the remaining UK data, but would like your instructions on how to proceed,” it continued. “We are prepared to arrange for you to review this data, or to destroy it. Google remains committed to working with the ICO on this matter.”

The ICO has responded with a statement of its own and has suggested that Google’s failure to delete the data breaches the undertaking signed by Google in November 2010.

Breach of undertaking

“Earlier today Google contacted the ICO to confirm that it still had in its possession some of the payload data collected by its Street View vehicles prior to May 2010,” said the ICO. “The fact that some of this information still exists appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010.”

“In their letter to the ICO today, Google indicated that they wanted to delete the remaining data and asked for the ICO’s instructions on how to proceed,” it added. “Our response, which has already been issued, makes clear that 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 re-opened its investigation last month after the US Federal Communications Commission found that not only did the engineer who created the code tell colleagues what he was doing, but also that it collected more than previously thought.

“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,” it reiterated.

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