Google has once again incurred the wrath of the UK Information Commissioner (ICO). The company is said to have ‘breached’ the privacy agreement that it signed in November 2010. That particular deal was signed after it came to light that Google had inadvertently scooped over 600Gb of personal data from unsecured wireless networks while gathering images and street information for its Street View project.
As part of the privacy agreement signed in 2010, Google promised to delete all of the personal information it had mistakenly collected, however over 18 months later, it has emerged that the company is still in possession of a portion of this data. The ICO say that Google had been in contact to report that not all of the data had been deleted, and wanted advice on what to do. The response from the ICO was to demand that the data be handed over immediately ”so that we can subject it to forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action”.
It continued: ”The ICO is clear that this information should never have been collected in the first place and the company’s failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern”.
Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, Peter Fleischer, said in a statement: ”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 UK. Google apologises for this error.”
Despite the fact that Google went to the authorities to admit its mistake, the reaction to the news has been somewhat hostile. The incident was described as “hugely embarrassing” for Google by Emma Draper, Head of Communications at campaign group Privacy International. She also said ”The company’s handling of the Street View episode has been a litany of disasters.”
Speaking of the potential implications, she added that “The fact that this latest one is the result of incompetence rather than deliberate misconduct will be of little comfort to Google users. The US Federal Trade Commission is going to come down hard on Google, and very few of their executives will deny that they deserve it.”
Do you have a view on this? Did Google do the right thing by coming forward and are they being treated unfairly for a genuine mistake, or should the ICO have checked that the November 2010 agreement had been adhered to before now?