Google has been served an enforcement notice today by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK, requiring the company to delete any remaining payload data previously obtained by its Street View cars.
Stephen Eckersley, Head of Enforcement for the ICO, said Google now has 35 days to comply and will need to contact the ICO if they find any further disks that contain the data. “Failure to abide by the notice will be considered as contempt of court, which is a criminal offence,” he added.
It’s been a rather long-winded investigation. The ICO looked at data obtained by Google Street View cars in the UK back in 2010, after the company admitted on its blog that it had mistakenly collected and stored payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.
Later that year the ICO essentially let Google off the hook, stating that the data didn’t “including meaningful personal details that could be linked to an identifiable person.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) then published a report in April 2012 detailing its own investigation into the same practice conducted in the United States. Google was also fined $25,000 for making the investigation unnecessarily difficult for the FCC.
The ICO then re-opened its investigation later that year, stating that the FCC’s findings contradicted Google’s claims that the payload data obtained was a mistake.
The decision today appears to be the end of the current Google Street View saga, as the ICO concluded that the information collected was a “result of procedural failings and a serious lack of management oversight including checks on the code.”
The independent authority also fired a warning shot at Google today, adding that it would be taking “a keen interest” in its operations moving forward and that it would not hesitate to take further action if other compliance issues came to the fore.
“The early days of Google Street View should be seen as an example of what can go wrong if technology companies fail to understand how their products are using personal information,” Eckersley added. “The punishment for this breach would have been far worse, if this payload data had not been contained.”
Image Credit: Google