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

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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  • davewolfgang
    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.
    Reply
  • hunter315
    Any 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.
    Reply
  • azathoth
    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.
    Reply
  • internetlad
    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.
    Reply
  • spiketheaardvark
    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.
    Reply
  • JeTJL
    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.
    Reply
  • jhansonxi
    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".
    Reply
  • fonzy
    JeTJLIt'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.
    So 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.
    Reply
  • JamesSneed
    That is idiotic ^ Why people keep trying to make analogies mystifies me its not like this is that complicated to dumb it down.
    Reply
  • hate machine
    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...
    Reply