Privacy Commissioner asks Google to delete Street View data

Privacy Commissioner asks Google to delete Street View data

Summary: Google's discovery that it hadn't deleted data left over from an earlier Street View privacy incident has prompted the Australian Privacy Commissioner to take action and request that Google destroy the data.


The Commissioner has asked Google to immediately destroy the data it had inadvertently collected via its Street View cars up until 2010. It also wants Google to engage an independent third party to verify the data's destruction and to conduct a further audit to ensure that no other data remains in the company's possession.

The data was found during Google's own review of its Street View disk inventory, which began in February. ZDNet understands that, at the time of the review, Google believed that it was possible that some data may have been overlooked, but as nothing had been found until July, it did not involve relevant regulators in the review. It had told the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) in March last year that it had destroyed all data.

According to the OAIC, Google notified the office of its discovery of new payload data on 27 July, the same date that Google notified privacy and information commissioners in the UK.

Australia's current legislation means that even if the Privacy Commissioner were to open a new own motion investigation into Google's retention of the data, it would have no powers to force Google to delete it; however, this is set to soon change with the current privacy amendments that are going through Parliament.

ZDNet contacted Google to confirm whether it intended to comply with the Privacy Commissioner's requests; the company said that it would continue to work with the Commissioner on the issue, but didn't say whether it would delete the data. Almost all organisations have complied with the Privacy Commissioner's requests in the past, even though they are not legally enforceable.

Overseas, French and British authorities have opted not to trust Google with the destruction of the data, instead requesting to have the disks handed over to them. While the UK Information Commissioner's Office had already reopened its investigation into Google's Street View data collection in June this year, after revelations about the matter made by the US Federal Communications Commission, the OAIC told ZDNet that it would not be reopening an investigation.

Topics: Google, Government, Government AU, Privacy

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Good luck stopping Googs on their path of invasive destruction

    You'd have a better chance stopping Metro, and you KNOW that ain't gonna happen. Not as long as rolling over the people in the name of CHEDDAH matters.

    Just yesterday I spotted a miniature street car under my bed but couldn't catch the dang thing before it peeled away. Saw it head into my neighbor's garage last, with what looked like a matching drone up above. Ah crap, I better wrap this up, there's some sort of G contraption looking thru my window... again. Grrrrr
  • "inadvertent" data collection by Google is just risible

    and insulting to the readers' intelligence even to use that expression.

    For the same reason, the regulators need appropriate tools to deal with Google - a club studeed with five-inch nails might do.
  • Hand over the disks?

    Re: " French and British authorities have opted not to trust Google with the destruction of the data, instead requesting to have the disks handed over to them."

    The naivete of these 'authorities' just makes me want to giggle.

    Hand over the disks? Have they ever seen an enterprise storage array, or have any idea how it one works? By the time the data is striped across the front end and peanut-buttered again across the back end it is on dozens of physical devices presented to the user as virtual disks. I sincerely doubt that anyone could categorically say they have any idea which disks physically hold the data.

    And we haven't even begun to consider replicants, snapshots, and backups.