Google’s covert data theft re-examined by ICO

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is to reinitiate its examination of the way in which Google’s Street View vehicles harvested private data, including email addresses and passwords, while touring the UK in order to establish whether or not legal action against the search giant is necessary.

Two months ago the ICO deemed Google to have been innocent of serious if unintentional data theft because it conluded the collection of information from Wi-Fi networks across the nation and elsewhere around the world, only resulted in the firm gathering fragmented and consequently harmless details.

The ICO has been forced to review the investigation now various international authorities have discovered that, in some cases, Google was actually collecting much more data than originally thought.

Google’s Alan Eustace published a blog post in which he said that some of the data harvested by the roaming Street View cars included user’s email addresses, passwords and web histories. He also confirmed that Google was taking measures to erase any of this harvested data as quickly as possible.

Mr Eustace explained that Google was highly embarrassed by this damning look into its data harvesting habits and said that all employees would undergo new privacy training, under the control of a privacy director, to ensure that this type of incident is not repeated.

Google’s new privacy director is expert Alma Whitten and Mr Eustace said that she will be instrumental in building privacy measures into the core of Google’s products.

The ICO said that it will be contacting Google to request confirmation over whether or not the data of UK citizens, including passwords, was taken illicitly as a result of its activities. If it is found to have breached the terms of the Data Protection Act, then the ICO could be hit with a half million pound fine, making it the first business to suffer the full force of the ICO’s new powers.

Google is under investigation in various nations around the world to make sure that its privacy policies are not exposing data in a similar manner to its Street View service.

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