U.K. finds Google broke privacy laws through Street View cars
British regulators said Wednesday that Google broke its data protection laws when the search giant's cars that swept through that country's neighborhoods scarfed up Internet data from residential Wi-Fi networks.
In a release, the U.K. Information Commissioner's Office said Google won't be subject to fines but the regulator will audit the company's data protection practices. Google also will have to promise that another data breach like that won't occur again. Google admitted last month that its Street View cars, that were driving around the world taking pictures for online maps, also collected payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that included e-mail addresses, passwords and Web page URLs.
"It is in my view that the collection of this information was not fair or lawful and constitutes a significant breach of the first principle of the Data Protection Act," British Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said in an statement.
The decision comes as the Silicon Valley search giant faces increased regulatory scrutiny of its privacy practices overseas. In contrast, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission closed its investigation of Google's Wi-Fi data gathering flap through its Street View mapping cars last week, saying the company sufficiently promised to change its behavior by deleting the data it gathered and boosting privacy practices within the organization.
Google is also scrambling to extinguish consumer concerns over privacy. The firm said Monday, in an e-mail to all its U.S. Gmail users, that it has reached a settlement over complaints that its social networking application, Buzz, revealed contact lists of users.
"Since we announced our mistake in May we have cooperated closely with the ICO and worked to improve our internal controls," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "As we have said before, we did not want this data, have never used any of it in our products or services, and have sought to delete it as quickly as possible. We are in the process of confirming that there are no outstanding legal obligations upon us to retain the data, and will then ensure that it is quickly and safely deleted."
| November 3, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories: FTC, Google, Privacy
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