July 30, 2010

Google Off The Hook For Gathering UK Wi-Fi Information

According to the U.K.'s Information Commissioner Office (ICO), Google did not grab "significant" personal details when collecting data from wi-fi networks.

The results came after the ICO reviewed some of the data Google scooped up from unsecured networks.

Google said the data was "mistakenly" gathered while logging wi-fi hotspots to help its location-based services.

The body said it would closely monitor other global investigations.

Information about the gathering of personal data came to light after data protection authorities in Hamburg, Germany requested more information about the operation of Google's Street View technology.

This revealed that Google "accidentally" obtained data from unsecured wi-fi spots for years while capturing images of street scenes.

The act led to many data protection authorities pressing Google for access to the data it obtained to see if laws on the protecting of personal information had been broken.

The French data protection authority said it had seen sensitive information like passwords during a preliminary examination.

The ICO said in a statement: "On the basis of the samples we saw, we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data."

It added: "There is also no evidence - as yet - that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment."

The ICO said that despite this, Google was "wrong" to gather the information.

Google said in response: "We welcome the news that the data protection authorities in the UK have found that the payload data contained no meaningful personal information."

It continued: "As we said when we announced our mistake, we did not want and have never used any payload data in our products or services."

Google apologized for gathering information and has now stopped collecting information about wi-fi networks.

The ICO said it would remain vigilant and review the findings of other investigations to see if they find Google broke laws governing how personal data can be captured and what can be done with it.

Google is still under investigation in the U.K. by the Metropolitan police and investigations are also ongoing in France, Spain, Germany and Australia.

Google faces a class action lawsuit in the U.S. over the data harvesting as well as a large scale investigation backed by 38 states.


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