Watchdog investigates Google after privacy invasion confession

26th Oct 2010

UK privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner (ICO) has said it is revisiting its dispute with search giant Google over what private data it grabbed as part of its controversial Street View Wi-Fi project.

The decision ends what seemed to be a state of quietus on the issue, which had blown up in both the UK and abroad in May when it was discovered Google had collected personal data over wireless networks as its hired cars drove by mapping real-world locales.
ICO had stepped back in July when it was told no significant personal details had been harvested, but now it seems user emails and passwords were copied during the process, an embarrassing fact Google has come clean on after a second review of the case.
On a company blog, the firm has now said that was the case, though it immediately said it was "mortified" at the discovery. "It's clear from those [external] inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire e-mails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords," the blog says in part.
The company says all such data will be deleted as soon as possible and that changes to its processes and structure will “significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users”.
Data "has never been used in any Google product and was never intended to be used by Google in any way," a spokesperson told the BBC.
Nonetheless, the admission has promoted ICO to say it will be making enquires to see "whether this information relates to the data inadvertently captured in the UK, before deciding on the necessary course of action, including a consideration of the need to use our enforcement powers".‬
Civil liberties groups have called the admission personal data was grabbed – even if by accident – as "outrageous".

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