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Google: We Really Didn't Delete All Street View Data

By - Source: Reuters | B 29 comments

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.


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  • 18 Hide
    azathoth , July 27, 2012 6:49 PM
    hunter315Any data acquired from an unsecured wifi connection should be allow to be kept and sold to anyone, it is like doing something on your front lawn and being offended when you find images of it on the internet, if you make it publicly accessible it should be fair game. If i can drive down your street and harvest data off your unsecured wifi you really shouldn't be allowed to have wifi.


    There is so many things wrong with what you have just said, that I don't believe it's necessary for me to form a counter arguement.
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    davewolfgang , July 27, 2012 6:37 PM
    It's sad that they are still "claiming" that they "accidentally" collected and STORED the data. Find the executive that "approved" it - for a LONG jail sentence.
  • 18 Hide
    azathoth , July 27, 2012 6:49 PM
    hunter315Any data acquired from an unsecured wifi connection should be allow to be kept and sold to anyone, it is like doing something on your front lawn and being offended when you find images of it on the internet, if you make it publicly accessible it should be fair game. If i can drive down your street and harvest data off your unsecured wifi you really shouldn't be allowed to have wifi.


    There is so many things wrong with what you have just said, that I don't believe it's necessary for me to form a counter arguement.
  • 4 Hide
    internetlad , July 27, 2012 6:50 PM
    it's the router owner's own damn fault for not securing their property, or at least buying it somewhere that would secure it for them. It's not hard to do, shit they all come with discs.

    Either way, If i left my car on the street, unlocked with the doors wide open and somebody came and stole it, the insurance company ain't gonna pay me squat because I left it totally accessible to anybody.
  • 4 Hide
    spiketheaardvark , July 27, 2012 6:53 PM
    I'd be curious about how much data street view collects. That's a lot information to sift through. Heck, I have hard enough time managing all the pictures my wife takes of the kids.

    That said google is really good about collecting data but they seem to have a hard time with getting rid of it.
  • 4 Hide
    JeTJL , July 27, 2012 7:22 PM
    It's both parties fault. It's a bad thing for people to leave their network unsecure and Google's fault for tapping into it. It's anyone's choice to be ignorant and not secure their wifi and it's any companies choice to not follow rules.
  • 5 Hide
    jhansonxi , July 27, 2012 7:41 PM
    internetladit's the router owner's own damn fault for not securing their property, or at least buying it somewhere that would secure it for them. It's not hard to do, shit they all come with discs.Either way, If i left my car on the street, unlocked with the doors wide open and somebody came and stole it, the insurance company ain't gonna pay me squat because I left it totally accessible to anybody.
    Not a good analogy since a car is a physical device. WiFi radio waves are energy and don't care about property lines. The same problem affects cell phones and most any display susceptible to Van Eck phreaking. The legal issue is that to connect to a WiFi, your signal must enter their property - an odd situation with omni-directional antennas because everyone's signals cross property lines all the time. Considering that some people believe that RF energy can cause health problems (direct action upon cells or indirectly through medical devices like heart pacemakers), I'm surprised there hasn't been any lawsuits between neighbors for "RF trespassing".
  • 5 Hide
    JamesSneed , July 27, 2012 8:00 PM
    That is idiotic ^ Why people keep trying to make analogies mystifies me its not like this is that complicated to dumb it down.
  • 1 Hide
    hate machine , July 27, 2012 8:23 PM
    fonzySo it's a woman's fault for being raped because she was wearing revealing clothing? and then the rapist gets a slap on the wrist because he claims it was an accident.


    I don't even...
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , July 27, 2012 8:42 PM
    I don't get it. Accidentally or otherwise, there's no reason they should be using wifi while mapping, let alone sniffing.

    If it's to find and list hotspots, well, listing private access points is either pointless or potentially fraudulent. So again, they have no business sniffing.
  • 5 Hide
    anti-painkilla , July 27, 2012 9:04 PM
    Its to use the wifi SSID's to assist GPS. You wifi sees the SSID, forwards that to google and they can get a closer estimation of where you are. 3 SSID's and they can pin point you. I understand collecting certain information but they got more that was necessary.

    Also they are giving the Govt the data, they should have deleted it before letting the ICO 'analyse' it. Probably terms of their pathetic $25,000 fine.

  • 1 Hide
    ddpruitt , July 27, 2012 9:52 PM
    I'm glad they're at least auditing their systems to make sure they get rid of all of it. How many companies have "missed" data they were suppose to delete and just said "Oops we thought we got it all"
  • 4 Hide
    dheadley , July 27, 2012 10:19 PM
    I don't know. Probably the same number of companies that "missed" intentionally writing code to sniff wifi networks. or "missed" intentionally storing the information. or "missed' intentionally lying about doing it. or "missed" lying about deleting it.

    Actually thinking about it. Not many companies could have done all this and more besides Google.
  • 3 Hide
    sykozis , July 27, 2012 10:21 PM
    hunter315Any data acquired from an unsecured wifi connection should be allow to be kept and sold to anyone, it is like doing something on your front lawn and being offended when you find images of it on the internet, if you make it publicly accessible it should be fair game. If i can drive down your street and harvest data off your unsecured wifi you really shouldn't be allowed to have wifi.

    Only 1 problem with selling data for an unsecured WiFi....it's considered theft of service to connect to it and would leave Google as an accomplice.
  • 6 Hide
    cookoy , July 27, 2012 10:42 PM
    The initial instruction was very clear: just delete all personal data collected. But google wants to play safe and pass the ball back to ICO: you decide what we should delete. Now ICO wants to pass back the burden by saying: you should not have collected them in the first place. Back to just delete all personal data plus maybe some fine for us telling you so again.
  • 1 Hide
    superp , July 28, 2012 1:20 AM
    "trust" is a funny thing, you know ... ... so I only tell jokes.
  • 3 Hide
    blackmancer , July 28, 2012 8:33 AM
    internetladit's the router owner's own damn fault for not securing their property, or at least buying it somewhere that would secure it for them. It's not hard to do, shit they all come with discs.Either way, If i left my car on the street, unlocked with the doors wide open and somebody came and stole it, the insurance company ain't gonna pay me squat because I left it totally accessible to anybody.


    when someone steals something, they do that knowingly, they don't accidentally steal your TV. so all that happens with that attitude is - "Oh look, someone left their car unlocked, this justifies me stealing it" which is the attitude of lowlifes who need sterilisation!!
  • 0 Hide
    olaf , July 28, 2012 12:42 PM
    to be honest SERVES THEM RIGHT for not securing there wireless...
  • 1 Hide
    Pherule , July 28, 2012 1:44 PM
    Now I wonder why the ICO wants the information from Google? I'd sooner trust Google with the information than some company or whatever that I've never heard of before (ICO)

    Not British btw so my lack of knowledge of the ICO's existence is justifiable.

    I also agree that people that don't secure their wireless properly deserve to get their information stolen. It's not that hard to enable WPA2-AES and disable broadcast.
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