November 20, 2010

Google Reaches Agreement With Britain To Delete Collected Data

The British information commissioner said Friday that Google has agreed to delete private emails and passwords that it picked up while its Street View cars took images of Britain's streets.

Google also agreed to improve the way it trains staff on data protection issues as its cars gather information for its free online mapping service.

"I welcome the fact that the Wi-Fi payload data that should never have been collected in the first place can, at last, be deleted," Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, Britain's data protection watchdog, told AFP.

He added: "I am very pleased to have a firm commitment from Google to work with my office to improve its handling of personal information."

"We don't want another breach like the collection of payload data by Google Street View vehicles to occur again."

Graham said earlier this month that the Internet giant had committed a "significant breach" of British law when its Street View cars picked up private data.  However, he said Google would not be fined as long as it improved its ways of gathering data.

In the agreement announced Friday, the firm said its purpose had been to identify Wi-Fi networks and to map where they were for location-based mobile applications. 

Google has now agreed to "delete payload data that has been identified as having been collected by Google in the UK, to the extent that Google has no other outstanding legal obligation to retain such data."

A Google spokeswoman said: "We're pleased that the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) have concluded their investigation and we will be working to delete the data as soon as possible."

Google will also train engineers and other staff about the collection and use of private data and allow Graham's office to conduct an audit of its privacy training programs and privacy reviews of new products.

The Internet search giant said in May that its Street View cars had inadvertently gathered data sent over unsecured Wi-Fi systems, sparking complaints from data regulators around the world.

It has since stopped collecting Wi-Fi data by Street View cars.


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