by Staff Reporter
June 22, 2013 (TSR) – The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered Google to destroy all Wi-Fi payload data that its vehicles collected within 35 days. The ICO has warned Google that failure to comply with the legal order will be considered as contempt of court, which is a criminal offence.
The company will not face any further action from the regulator over the matter. The Office said:
Based on a detailed investigation, including an analysis of the data Google has recorded, the ICO has concluded that the detriment caused to individuals by this breach fails to meet the level required to issue a monetary penalty.
The ICO’s head of enforcement Stephen Eckersley explained:
Today’s enforcement notice strengthens the action already taken by our office, placing a legal requirement on Google to delete the remaining payload data identified last year within the next 35 days and immediately inform the ICO if any further disks are found.
Failure to abide by the notice will be considered as contempt of court, which is a criminal offence.
The early days of Google Street View should be seen as an example of what can go wrong if technology companies fail to understand how their products are using personal information.
The punishment for this breach would have been far worse, if this payload data had not been contained.
The ICO publicly confirmed it had reopened its investigation of Google’s much-criticised Street View technology in June 2012, after the advertising behemoth’s fleet of cycloptic cars slurped payload data including emails and passwords from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.
At the time, the watchdog demanded “prompt” answers from Google on the ways the data was collected. The ICO took action after the US Federal Communications Commission found that it seemed “likely that such information was deliberately captured” by the fleet of vehicles.
As a result of Blighty’s regulatory probe, the ICO found today that Google’s data gaffe was due to “procedural failures and a serious lack of management oversight including checks on the code”.
However, the watchdog added that it was unable to find “evidence to show that Google intended, on a corporate level, to collect personal data.”
For that reason the ICO said it “concluded that the rationale for its original decision in 2010 to issue Google with an undertaking and carry out a consensual audit remain the same.”
The regulator continued: “But the ICO has also this week 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.”
The ICO said it would shortly be writing to Google to confirm its preliminary findings.
Google convinced the ICO that the data in question had not entered the public domain.
Google spokesperson said that they “work hard to get privacy right” and has every intention of complying with the order to destroy the disks.
“We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it,” he said.
“We cooperated fully with the ICO throughout its investigation, and having received its order this morning we are proceeding with our plan to delete the data.”
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has been repeatedly ridiculed for failing to take action against Google over its Street View slurp. The ICO has been forced several times to reopen its investigation of the company following criticism from MPs and Brits about the watchdog’s “lily-livered” handling of the probe.
Source: The Register, Sky News