Google warned over Street View data, but dodges fine

The search giant has been slapped on the wrist for harvesting personal data using its Street View cars.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
2 min read

Google has been given a slap on the wrist by the Information Complaints Commission, over the search giant's Street View cars' harvesting of personal Wi-Fi data.

The big G was today given a legal notice by the ICO that it would have to delete the data it pinched using its street-snapping vehicles within 35 days.

"Failure to abide by the notice will be considered as contempt of court," the ICO's Stephen Eckersley said, "which is a criminal offence."

"The punishment for this breach would have been far worse," Eckersley also stated, "If this payload data had not been contained."

The ICO re-opened its investigation into the Street View controversy -- which dates back to 2010 -- last year, during which time even more disks containing citizens' personal data were discovered, although Google has "provided assurances" that the data on those disks wasn't accessed and hasn't entered the public domain.

The ICO said its investigation had concluded that the collection of personal data was "the result of procedural failings and a serious lack of management oversight," but that there was, "insufficient evidence to show that Google intended, on a corporate level, to collect personal data."

Google must delete the data or face criminal action, but there will doubtless be those who think the omnipresent web company should face stricter action.

Google hasn't been fined for the security breach. "The detriment caused to individuals by this breach fails to meet the level required to issue a monetary penalty," the ICO said.

Do you think Google made an innocent mistake when it sucked up Wi-Fi data, or should it feel the force of the law? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.