Street View snooping: Google hired top ICO privacy exec

A Google UK privacy manager who deals directly with the Information Commissioner's office worked for the watchdog itself during the Street View scandal, a freedom of information request has revealed

A former liaison manager from the UK's data protection watchdog now works for Google, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) confirmed on Thursday that Google privacy policy manager Stephen McCartney, who is liaising with the ICO in the regulator's reopened investigation into the Google Street View Wi-Fi snooping scandal, used to be an ICO employee.

According to McCartney's LinkedIn page, he was until November 2011 the ICO's head of data protection promotion and a strategic liaison group manager, dealing with the government.

According to The Guardian, Conservative MP Rob Halfon intends to bring the issue up in parliament, despite the ICO's denial that McCartney had worked on the Street View probe while employed by the watchdog.

The Information Commissioner Office (ICO) gave Google a relatively easy ride over the Street View Wi-Fi snooping scandal in 2010. While other countries levied fines over the matter, the ICO said Google had broken the law by collecting data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks but merely told the company not to do it again .

The ICO has now reopened its investigation in the UK after US regulators fined Google for obstructing their own probe. However, as the freedom of information response showed, McCartney is a key Google contact for that investigation.

"This is a pretty shocking revelation," Halfon was quoted in The Guardian's article as saying. "It raises more questions about the information commissioner than it does Google because clearly the ICO has been asleep on their watch on this issue."

The ICO, meanwhile, said the now-published correspondence between McCartney and the ICO this year showed he was "treated like any other organisation's representative, with his emails receiving nothing more than a polite acknowledgement".

ZDNet UK has asked Google for comment, but had not received a reply at the time of writing.