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Oops- Google Found Street View Wifi Data

08.01.12

Google confessed to U.K. officials that Google still has Street View unprotected wifi data collected before 2010 in spite claims that such data had been destroyed. On July 27, 2012 Peter Fleischer (Google’s global privacy counsel) sent a letter to Steve Eckersley (head of enforcement) at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and admitted the following:

Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the U.K. Google apologizes for the error.

In conducting that review, we have determined that we continue to have payload data from the U.K. and other countries. We are in the process of notifying the relevant authorities in those countries.

In response Mr. Eckersley wrote back that Google should never have collected the unprotected wifi data to begin with.

PC Magazine reported that those other countries are U.K., Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, and Australia.

As a result of Google’s admission to the ICO, the French counterpart to ICO, C.N.I.L. has now demanded Google report about the Street View wifi data. The New York Times reported that:

The C.N.I.L. fined the company €100,000, or $120,000, in March 2011 for collecting private e-mail messages, computer passwords and other personal data as its cars took pictures for Google’s Street View feature, a case that prompted privacy investigations around the world.

Clearly collection of unprotected wifi data has become a serious mess for Google, and it appears that this episode is far from over.

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