Google: We Really Didn't Delete All Street View Data
Google has admitted that it hasn't completely eradicated the personal data it collected via Street View cars.
Reuters reports that Google has admitted it hasn't deleted all of the personal information Street View cars started collecting back in May 2010. Google must now supply the information to Britain's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to see what action needs to be taken against the search engine giant.
In November 2010, Google promised that it would delete all personal data its Street View cars collected while mapping out the streets of more than 30 countries. It was discovered that Google was "accidentally" obtaining information like email addresses, passwords, MAC addresses and more from unsecured Wi-Fi networks they detected in the process.
After a thorough investigation, Google was forced to change the way its Street View cars mapped neighborhoods, and agreed to delete all personal data by December 2010. But according to a letter from Google posted on the ICO website, the search engine giant still possesses some of that sensitive 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," wrote Google Global Privacy Counsel member Peter Fleischer in a letter to the ICO (pdf). "That review involves the physical inspection and re-scanning of thousands of disks. 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."
Fleischer said that Google wanted to delete the remaining data, but wanted the ICO's instructions on how to proceed. "We are prepared to arrange for you to review this data, or to destroy it," the letter said. "Google remains committed to working with the ICO on this matter."
The ICO doesn't seem impressed with the new discovery, saying that the information should never have been collected in the first place. Even more, the company’s failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern.
"Our response, which has already been issued (pdf), 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," an ICO spokesperson said. "We are also in touch with other data protection authorities in the EU and elsewhere through the Article 29 Working Party and the GPEN network to coordinate the response to this development."
Back in April, Google was fined $25,000 by the FCC for "deliberately impeding and delaying" its investigation into Street View data collection. Then in June, Britain's Information Commissioner said that the FCC inquiry had thrown up new issues that needed to be addressed. As for the ICO, it has the power to impose fines of up to roughly $780,000 USD.