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MPs question role of ICO after Google staff move

10 Jul 2012
Information Commissioner's Office

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has come under fire from MPs after last week's revelations that a former senior member at the watchdog during the Google Street View Wi-Fi sniffing probe now works for the firm.

The incident came to light last week when a Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed that Stephen McCartney, former strategic liaison group manager for government and society at the ICO, is now privacy policy manager at Google.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling for the government to investigate whether the ICO is "fit for purpose" and if "the public can continue to have confidence in the ICO".

"The ICO has now admitted that one of its former privacy managers, who reportedly worked on its Google Street View investigation, is now employed by Google as a senior executive," he wrote.

HE added that "this revolving-door policy raises serious questions about the ICO, and whether it is fit for purpose, as there is already evidence that it was incredibly slow to act on this breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 and only did so following pressure from Parliament and the media."

Halfon has a track record of berating the ICO, likening the organisation to the Keystone Cops for its handling of the original Wi-Fi breach incident in 2010.

The ICO dismissed the revelations last week by claiming that McCartney had never worked on the Street View investigation during his time at the privacy watchdog.

The ICO reiterated this statement when contacted for V3 for comment on Halfon's motion.

"Stephen McCartney played no part in the investigation into the Google Street View project while working at ICO," it said.

"In any event, ICO employees continue to be legally bound by a confidentiality agreement after they leave the organisation, as part of the Data Protection Act."

The ICO is currently re-investigating the Wi-Fi sniffing incident after revelations in the US that engineers had warned that the technology would gather data were ignored.

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Dan Worth

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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