December 20, 2010

Google Deletes Personal Street View Data From The UK

The personal data that Google Street View cars collected has been deleted in the U.K.

The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) confirmed the deletion.

The first batch of Wi-Fi data, which included snippets of e-mails, URLs and passwords, was deleted in November.

However, legal wrangles in other countries meant that the remaining data took more time to erase.

"We can confirm that the UK data has now been deleted, and that this has been independently certified," said Google.

U.S. forensics firm Stroz Friedberg performed the deletion.

The ICO welcomed the announcement and said that it had been sent a copy of the report confirming the deletion.

"This is inline with the requirements of the undertaking issued by the ICO and signed by Google last month," a spokesperson told BBC.

The ICO came under scrutiny for not taking action against Google, which admitted to collecting information from unsecured wireless networks in over 30 countries in May 2010.

However, deputy information commissioner David Smith told BBC that it had no grounds for fining Google.

He also said that the U.K. had conducted a much more basic investigation than other countries like Canada.

"We spent less time searching than others did. If we had searched for days and days we would have found more," Smith said at the time.

A spokesperson told BBC that the ICO would not change any of its procedures, despite the condemnation.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the ICO, and published on December 17, details the correspondence between the firm and the watchdog.

It also explains why it has taken until now to delete the rest of the files.

"There is some data from the UK which we haven't been able to delete yet," wrote Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer in November, describing the obstacle as a "wrinkle to the process".

"This relates to data that was still on Street View car disks at the time we discovered our mistake in May. Because these disks could contain data from countries where we have received preservation requests from the authorities, we must make sure that in deleting the UK data we don't disturb the surrounding data."

"In the meantime, the data on these disks was never uploaded to our servers, and these disks have been and will remain securely stored as we work to complete the task."

Google faced a series of global investigations into how it came to collect the data.

Google told Connecticut's attorney general's office that it would not comply with requests to hand over the data it collected.

"I am disappointed by Google's failure to comply with my information demands," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.

"We will review any information we receive and consider whether additional enforcement steps - including possible legal action - are warranted."


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