Google to Cuts Wi-Fi Street Data

Google will delete the data its Street View cars collected over Wi-Fi connections in the UK, the country's privacy watchdog has confirmed.

No specific date has been given, but an Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) spokesperson told IT PRO the data would be deleted as soon as possible.

However, Google will decide when the data, which includes passwords and emails, will be dumped, the ICO said.

Google has also signed an undertaking to improve information handling and implement improved training measures around security and data protection.

Furthermore, Google engineers will be required to maintain a privacy design document for every new project before launch.

The ICO, which this month said Google had committed a serious breach of the Data Protection Act, will carry out a full audit of the Mountain View company's privacy operations over the next nine months.

Information commissioner Christopher Graham said he did not want to see another breach like the Google Street View incident ever again.

"It is a significant achievement to have an undertaking from a major multinational corporation like Google that extends to its global policies and not just its UK activities," Graham added.

"We will be keeping a close watch on the progress Google makes and will follow up with an extensive audit. Meanwhile, I welcome the fact that the Wi-Fi payload data that should never have been collected in the first place can, at last, be deleted."

The Big Brother Watch has questioned whether the news was comforting at all, telling IT PRO Google had never been punished and the "victims" would never know what data was taken or how it was used.

"If and when this deletion actually takes place, no further investigation into what Google did can be done - and whether it was accidental or deliberate will never be established after that," said Alex Deane, director for Big Brother Watch.

"So, whilst in a way this is good news for the privacy of the individuals concerned, it's a bad day for the future of privacy."

Conservative MP and internet privacy campaigner Rob Halfon told IT PRO this week that the ICO's handling of the Google case had been "farcical."

It appeared the ICO had gone to Google's headquarters to have "tea and crumpets" when the watchdog sent "a couple of lawyers over and no technical staff" during its initial investigation, Halfon claimed.

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