UK Information Commissioner Slams Google For Failure To Provide Street View Data

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Google has been in ongoing discussions (some might say a war of words) with The UK’s Information Commissioner. If you remember, Google’s street cars captured all sorts of information other than just pictures, like WiFi nodes and even IP traffic, when they drove around. Google is dealing with multiple cases across Europe with various public bodies about this.

Today Google confirmed that it had located additional payload data collected by its Street View cars prior to May 2010 and the ICO, which has repeatedly asked Google to delete the extra data, has thrown a few choice words in Google’s direction.

While the ICO’s head of enforcement Steve Eckersley wrote in his reply to Google that he was “grateful” for the information about the data, and noted Google’s “commitment to continued cooperation with the ICO on this matter,” it’s not all hearts and roses.

The ICO says this data was supposed to have been deleted in December 2010. The fact that some of this information still exists appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010, according to the ICO.

In their letter to the ICO today, Google said they wanted to delete the remaining data and asked for instructions on how to proceed. A copy of the letter received this morning by the ICO from Google can be downloaded here. Here’s the response.

Effectively, the ICO has demanded that Google must supply the data to the ICO immediately, so that “we can subject it to forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action.”

The ICO says “this should never have happened in the first place and the company’s failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern.” That’s a pretty big slap on the wrist for Google.

The ICO says it is also in touch with other data protection authorities in the EU and elsewhere through the Article 29 Working Party and the GPEN network to coordinate the response to this development.

As they say, this story will run and run.

Update:

Peter Fleisher, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, tells us: “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 apologizes for this error.”