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21 June 2013, 16:17

Google must delete last of UK Street View data

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Google Despite earlier assurances that it had been deleted, Google still had in its possesion payload data collected by its Street View cars' Wi-Fi systems. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has therefore announced that it is using an enforcement noticePDF to force the company to destroy the data or face prosecution. The payload data was collected by Google's Street View cars when driving around the countryside; the software that was mapping out the location of Wi-Fi access points was also recording any data packets it could see which could include fragments of Wi-Fi users' email, passwords or other personal data. The decision to enforce and prosecute over the payload data came as a result of investigations started when ICO reopened the case in April 2012 after concerns about the engineer's actions working with the data. This then immediately raised questions about how the search company has handled the data.

According to the enforcement order, Google revealed to ICO in July and September 2012 that it had "accidentally retained four disks containing payload data collected in the UK". The retention was discovered when the person in charge found an irregularity in the "quarantine disk inventory" which had meant the disks, kept in a quarantine cage, had not been deleted. Given the circumstances of the retention of data, ICO is concerned that other disks may have been overlooked in the destruction process. ICO has given Google 35 days to destroy the data and requires Google promptly to inform it if it discovers any more disks with payload data.

Google does, though, still find itself without sanction for its activities in collecting the data in the first place. ICO says that the rationale behind its 2010 decisionPDF to audit Google and get it to sign an undertaking not to break data protection still stands. It does add though that it has "warned Google that it will be taking a keen interest in its operations and will not hesitate to take action if further serious compliance issues come to its attention". It also notes that ICO's other investigation taking place in conjunction with other European regulators, is into whether Google's privacy policy compiles with data protection rules.


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