Google slapped with Street View data deletion order by UK watchdog

Google slapped with Street View data deletion order by UK watchdog

Summary: Google faces criminal charges if it doesn't destroy all wi-fi payload data gathered by its Street View cars within the next 15 days.


Google must delete all wi-fi payload data collected by its Street View cars in the UK within the next 35 days or it could face legal action.

The Information Commissioner's Office, which is currently weighing up Google's new unified privacy policy, announced today it had served Google with an enforcement notice requiring it to delete all of the wi-fi payload data collected by its Street View cars in 2009 or be held in contempt of court.

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UK reopens Google Street View investigation after FCC probe

UK reopens Google Street View investigation after FCC probe

The U.K.'s data protection regulator is reinvestigating Google a year after it closed the case, following an FCC report claiming the search giant knew of the data collection.

"Today's enforcement notice strengthens the action already taken by our office, placing a legal requirement on Google to delete the remaining payload data identified last year within the next 35 days and immediately inform the ICO if any further disks are found," Stephen Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement said in a statement on Friday.

"Failure to abide by the notice will be considered as contempt of court, which is a criminal offence." The order was dated 11 June, giving Google just 15 more days to comply with the order.

Google's Street View cars were found to have gathered payload data from unsecured wi-fi connections in a number of countries while on the road taking photos for the mapping service.

The UK's data protection authority reopened its investigation into Google's Street View data harvest last April off the back of claims in a report by the FCC in the US that Google may have been aware that its cars were gathering payload data.

During its investigation, Google reported to the ICO — as it did in other jurisdictions — that it had discovered additional discs containing the payload data that it had failed to destroy, which it had been required to do by an earlier order.

Specifically in the UK, Google found four discs last February that it had failed to destroy, and reported the find to the ICO in July and September. In October, Google found a fifth disc that may contain UK data.

The ICO however fears there may be more discs that Google has missed, it said.

"The data controller has given an explanation for their failure to erase the payload data... However, the Commissioner is still concerned that other discs holding payload data may have been overlooked during the destruction process."

The ICO's opted for an enforcement order partly because it believes that people whose data was collected would likely suffer "worry and anxiety" with the knowledge some discs may not have been destroyed.

Still, the ICO, which can fine organisations up to £500,000 for a serious data breach, does not believe the detriment caused to those affected warrants issuing Google with a fine.

The new enforcement order comes as France's information watchdog, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) has ordered Google to change its recently consolidated privacy policy. Its counterparts in Spain and Italy have also taken action over the policy.

The ICO's investigation into whether Google's consolidated privacy policy complies with the UK's Data Protection Act is ongoing and it will shortly write to Google to confirm its preliminary findings.

Topics: Google, Privacy, United Kingdom

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • the UK big brother should shut up

    and let google go about its great bussines
    LlNUX Geek
    • As always... are a COMPLETE areshole.
      • No way can Google delete it

        It's already stored in NSA's database.
        • A control mentality seeds fear - and calls for ... control mentality

          Yes that is the point I was going to make. In the light of recent revelations, it is hard not to believe that Google was acting either accidentally or for its own data collection advantages. The opportunity to suck up such data by the NSA, was too good to pass up.
          The delays in deletion - for the call to delete has been active for a long time now - are perhaps to allow its relocation in secret classified opacity.
          MS is shown to have actively initiated deep cooperation with NSA and until events indicate otherwise I expect all of the major US tech companies are likewise involved.
          The mindset of "what is good for us = what is good for America" becomes a distortion of the self-interest of power. It is not so much that they are evil as they are locked into seeing evil in terms of their personal loss - or of creating it to ensure continued advantage. Be sure that the USA is only a host for the processes at work and that power will sacrifice anything that no longer serves purpose - such as democratic accountability or constitutional integrity. It has no allegiance to anything but itself.
          But before we start throwing stones - who among us is truly free of this mentality?
          We like to think we are perhaps - but look at what is held secret in our own mind in order to present a façade - ok a working façade - but we are all part of a larger Mind or perspective from which we tend to hide - and hide the fact that we hide.
          Perhaps the NSA will help to 'out' our own deeply embedded control mentality?
          Feels true.
  • Google is

    of tech.