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ICO reopens Street View case over Google snooping

12 Jun 2012
Google Street View car

 The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reopened its investigation into Google's Street View Wi-Fi collecting in light of recent revelations that the firm was fully aware the technology would snaffle users' data.

In a letter to the search giant, the data watchdog said it believed the original claims made by Google that data was collected erroneously were misleading. A report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found a Google engineer had warned his bosses the project had the potential to gather personal data.

“A typical concern might be that we are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they are doing,” the engineer had warned.

The ICO said it now believes information relating to IP addresses, telephone numbers, email messages, instant messages and their content, login credentials, and information relating to the use of online dating and pornographic sites were all captured.

“It therefore seems likely that such information was deliberately captured during the GSV [Google Street View] operations conducted in the UK,” the letter said.

"However, during the course of our investigation we were specifically told by Google that it was a simple mistake. If the data was collected deliberately it is clear this is a different situation than was reported to us in April 2010.

"Given the findings of the FCC we have reopened our investigation.”  

The ICO has now asked Google to provide further information about its Street View project, including exactly what type of data was captured by the firm and why it was not revealed to the ICO during its first investigation.

A Google spokesman said the firm would comply with the requests for information and said no data captured was ever used by the firm.

"We're happy to answer the ICO's questions. We have always said that the project leaders did not want and did not use this payload data. Indeed, they never even looked at it," they said.

The revelation caps a bad day for Google after Apple confirmed it would be dropping support for its Maps service from iOS 6 and using services from sat-nav firm TomTom instead.

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Dan Worth
About

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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