StreetView review finds Google has upped its privacy game

By Gareth Morgan
16 Aug 2011 View Comments
Google Streetview Red Car

Google has received an all-clear from the UK’s Information Commissioner, after a recent audit at the search giant demonstrated it had taken "reasonable” steps to improve privacy practices in the wake of the Wi-Fi sniffing fiasco.

The audit, which took place in Google’s London offices on 19 and 20 July 2011, was part of the settlement reached between the ICO and Google last November.

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“I’m satisfied that Google has made good progress in improving its privacy procedures following the undertaking they signed with me last year,” said Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner.

But he added that Google had to maintain a robust approach to safeguarding the data it collects on people in future.

“The ICO’s Google audit is not a rubber stamp for the company’s data protection policies. The company needs to ensure its work in this area continues to evolve alongside new products and technologies,” said Graham. “Google will not be filed and forgotten by the ICO.”

The ICO initially investigated Google after receiving complaints about Google’s StreetView project. It emerged that as well as collecting photographs of British roads, its StreetMap vehicles were also collecting payload data from unsecured Wi-FI hotspots.

Google has firmly maintained that this was a result of over-enthusiastic engineers giving its vehicles capabilities they hadn’t needed, rather than a deliberate attempt to snaffle home owners’ Wi-Fi traffic.

Google agreed to delete the data as part of its settlement with the ICO made in November 2010.

The ICO has now said Google still has to improve its process for building privacy safeguards into its project planning.

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