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U.K. finds Google broke privacy laws through Street View cars

By Cecilia Kang

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."

By Cecilia Kang  | November 3, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  FTC, Google, Privacy  
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Next: Rep. Barton pledges push for Internet privacy oversight

Comments

And how many of the governments that are complaining only want the data collected. It wouldn't surprise me if they had requested Google yo do some of the monitoring, until it was revealed.

Posted by: gmclain | November 3, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Google didn't do anything that the world governments have been doing for a long time. They just proved how easy it is and how little privicy people have in this modern age. Just accept it as it will just get worse then it is now. We all live in a fish bowl. Welcome to the brave new world.

Posted by: OldCoot1 | November 3, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Ironic in a country where you can't pick your nose without being monitored by cctv.

Posted by: robert17 | November 4, 2010 5:28 AM | Report abuse

Well, lets see. 1. You don't set up your router with any security. 2. You use windows without going through a user-id/password log on. 3. You log onto your windows pc as an administrator. 4. Administrator? What's an administrator? 5. You have no firewall software installed and operational. 6. You are surprised when a crew of pc magazine readers cruising down the street gobbles information off your wide open system. Priceless.

Posted by: jim999 | November 4, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, and did you see how she was dressed? She was askin' for it!

Posted by: anaximander471 | November 4, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

jim999,

Don't think google stopped at getting info off unprotected servers.

Anytime you are in the vicinity of protected ones, they still show up for network detectors.

What is striking is that they have the money to capture that granularity of data across the face of the whole world.

They got your protected server name too. And your general address, which could be pared down when you rule out the dummies who left theirs open.

Amazing.

Can't be for any good reason.

Posted by: tweetThis | November 5, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

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