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UK ICO: "Our bad...Google really did break the law"

New findings, but no credibility from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office; just more bad press for Google Street View.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

Back in July, the British government's privacy watchdog concluded that Google's collection of unencrypted WiFi data by its Street View mapping cars had not broken any laws. It was "wrong," they said, but not illegal.

Now, after both Google and the ICO (the agency that originally examined Google's actions and cleared them of wrongdoing in the UK) were taken to task by the British Parliament this week, the ICO has suddenly decided that Google did, in fact, make a "significant breach" of British privacy laws.

As reported by the BBC,

Google will not face a fine or any punishment...Instead, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will audit Google's data protection practices.

The move marks a U-turn for the ICO which originally ruled that no data breach had occurred.

Last week the ICO vowed to look again at the evidence, after the Canadian data agency found the search giant in breach of its law.

But as the British MP who originally called the ICO "lily-livered" pointed out,

"The ICO failed to act when it should have done, despite the fact that Google staged a significant infringement of privacy and civil liberties, by harvesting millions of e-mails, wi-fi addresses, and passwords.

"Furthermore, the ICO has already proved that it lacks the technical expertise to audit Google's activity. What confidence can we have in their audit now?

So Google gets another slap on the wrist over its controversial Street View program and yet another government agency proves that it can keep up with the pace of politics, but not with the pace of technology.

For its part, Google is promising to delete the data it collected, improve its policies, and tell its engineers to write software that is far more subtle when it invades people's privacy. Seems almost as good as their Buzz settlement, right?

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