Google cleared of "significant personal" privacy breach by data regulator

4th Aug 2010

The Information Commissioner’s Office has cleared Google of collecting "significant personal" Wi-Fi data while videoing images for its StreetView service, although it warned the search giant was "wrong" to have gathered such information in the first place.

According to new estimates by analyst company Aqute Intelligence that were published by the Guardian, however, the search giant is facing about 28 other StreetView-related law suits or criminal investigations around the world, 11 of which are taking place in the US. Its products have also been subject to bans or threatened bans in at least 23 countries.

But the UK’s ICO said that, following a visit to Google’s premises to assess samples of the ‘payload’ data gathered, it had concluded that the vendor had collected no "meaningful personal details that could be linked to an identifiable person".

There was also no evidence "as yet" that the information captured by the vendor "has caused or could cause any individual detriment", the regulator said, even though it stated that "it was wrong to collect the information" in the first place.

Moreover, as the ICO had only seen samples of records that were collected in the UK, it conceded that data protection authorities in other jurisdictions conducting a "detailed analysis" of such payload data might find information that could be linked to individuals.

"The Information Commissioner is taking a responsible and proportionate approach to this case. However, we remain vigilant and will be reviewing any relevant findings and evidence from our international counterparts’ investigations," it said.

The regulator also indicated that it would alert pressure group Privacy International and others that had complained to it of its position.

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