Privacy Commissioner asks Google to delete Street View data

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.