UK ICO says Google may be in breach of its Street View Undertaking

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced today that Google has now confirmed it still has some additional payload data from the UK and other countries collected by its Street View cars prior to May 2010. Google said in 2010 that it had deleted such data.

An ICO spokesperson said: “The fact that some of this information still exists appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010.”

“In their letter to the ICO today, Google indicated that they wanted to delete the remaining data and asked for the ICO’s instructions on how to proceed. Our response, which has already been issued, makes clear that Google must supply the data to the ICO immediately, so that we can subject it to forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action.”

"We are also in touch with other data protection authorities in the EU and elsewhere through the Article 29 Working Party and the GPEN [Global Privacy Enforcement] network [Data Protection Authorities in around 20 countries] to coordinate the response to this development,” stated the ICO.

On 18 June, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, Peter Fleischer, said that he was surprised that the ICO had decided to re-open its investigation into Google. In a letter addressed to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and published by the UK-based newspaper The Telegraph, Fleischer said that Google had cooperated with the ICO, and implemented many of the proposed changes resulting from an ICO audit.

The ICO claimed that Google knew more about payload than it had previously disclosed. With regard to the ICO’s suggestion that Google had pre-prepared data so that the disk made available to the ICO for analysis was not representative of the payload collection, Google said at the time that there was no “pre preparation” of the payload data; it was merely rendered “readable” using Google’s Codex software so that it could be understood and queried using search terms of the ICO’s choosing.

See Peter Fleischer’s letter of 18 June.

A copy of the letter from Google, dated 27 July.