Last Of UK ‘WiSpy’ Data Deleted

Google has deleted the last of the payload data inadvertently collected by its Street View cars in the UK

Google has confirmed that the last of the UK data collected by Google Street View cars in the notorious ‘WiSpy’ incident earlier this year has been deleted. This follows the deletion of the first batch of British Wi-Fi data in November.

In a statement, Google claimed to be “profoundly sorry” for mistakenly collecting the payload data – including full URLs, emails and passwords – from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. “As we have said before, we did not want this data, have never used any of it in our products or services, and have sought to delete it as quickly as possible,” the company said.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) welcomed the announcement, stating that it had been sent a copy of the report confirming the deletion by US forensics firm Stroz Friedberg.

ICO under fire

The ICO has come under criticism for its handling of the investigation and for not taking action against Google, following the company’s admission in May 2010 that it had accidentally collected more than 600GB of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks around the world while photographing streets for its Street View application.

After examining samples of the data in July, the ICO concluded that it was free of any “meaningful personal details”. However, the Information Commissioner did a u-turn last month, stating that the search giant had indeed broken the law.

It later emerged that the ICO had send lawyers, not technical staff, to investigate Google’s Wi-Fi data breach, leading Conservative MP Robert Halfon to label the ICO ‘Keystone Kops’. He also described the Information Commissioner as “lily-livered” and said the ICO’s lack of action was “lamentable”.

Meanwhile, Google is still facing several global investigations into how it came to collect the data, some of which are ongoing. Czech data protection authorities have rejected an application by Google to collect personal data for its mapping service, and Canadian authorities ruled in October that Google Street View committed a ‘serious violation’ of its privacy laws.

Last week, Google refused to hand over the data it had collected to Connecticut’s attorney general’s office, which is leading a multi-state US probe. “We will review any information we receive and consider whether additional enforcement steps – including possible legal action – are warranted,” Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.