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Google breaks promise, says it didn't delete all Street View data

July 27, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • In a letter to a British regulatory agency, Google admitted it did not delete all Street View data it had promised to get rid of.
In a letter to a British regulatory agency, Google admitted it did not delete… (Paul Sakuma/Associated…)

Google has admitted to a British regulatory agency that it did not remove all Street View data it had promised to delete two years ago.

The tech company sent a letter to  Britain's  Information Commissioner's Office on Friday saying that after going back in and giving Street View a manual review, a small portion of the data that should have been removed was discovered.

"Google apologizes for this error," wrote Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, in the letter, which is on the ICO's website.

Street View is Google's feature within its Google Maps service that lets users get an on-location look at a place with pictures from the real world. The images used in Street View are collected by cars and other vehicles Google outfits with cameras that go around snapping shots.

The issue came to light in 2010 when Google first acknowledged that its Street View program had collected private data that included passwords as well as legal, medical and pornographic material from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

The Information Commissioner's Office and others then began investigating Google, but the  Information Commissioner's Office closed the investigation after Google said the data collecting was happening unintentionally.

That, however, changed last month when the Information Commissioner's Office reopened the case, citing new information from American regulators that showed the information was being collected purposefully by one employee whose peers were aware of his activities.

As for the news that some data remained, the Information Commissioner's Office said it is working with other authorities across the European Union to coordinate its response.

“The ICO is clear that this information should never have been collected in the first place and the company’s failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern," said an ICO spokesperson in an online statement. 

In total, the stored data affect France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Australia, according to the Associated Press, which said it is unclear what the penalties could be for Google although the Information Commissioner's Office can impose fines as high as about $780,000.

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