Did Google Break a Promise to Regulators?
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) told Britain’s regulatory authority last week that it mistakenly kept some of the Street View data it had promised to delete and that it was sorry for the “error”. Countries affected include the U.K., France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, and Australia, according to the Associated Press.
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Google admitted in 2010 that its camera-laden Street View cars, used to create 3D maps of the world’s streets, had also picked up personal passwords and other data through unsecured wireless networks in Europe and Australia. That information included legal, medical, and pornographic material. After widespread censure from authorities, the company insisted it would get rid of the data.
However, in a letter to Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office this week, Google says it kept a “small portion” of the information because of human error. “Google apologizes for this error,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in the letter, asking the ICO for instructions on how to proceed.
The ICO said in a statement that Google’s failure was “cause for concern.” Ireland’s deputy commissioner for data protection, Gary Davis, was harsher, saying the move was “clearly unacceptable” and that his organization had conveyed its “deep unhappiness” to Google while demanding an explanation.
Last month, the ICO reopened its investigation into Street View, saying that an inquiry by authorities in the U.S. had raised fresh concerns. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission had fined Google in April. The ICO has the power to impose fines of up to roughly $780,000 for the most serious data breaches.
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