When Google Street View went live in the UK it was hailed as many things when it was released ranging from a ‘thief’s dream’ to a ‘flagship for user-friendly technology’ but the service was eventually cleared of privacy concerns after some people set up privacy blockades.
Regardless of your thoughts it is hard to escape the controversy, but finally it was announced that the latest saga in the Street View ‘epic’ has ended: Google’s WiFi data is to be deleted.
For those of you for which this story has fallen under your radar I’ll give you a brief recap: earlier this year courtesy of a routine audit by the Hamburg data authority Google admitted that as part of the operation into collecting the data for the Street View service they also accidentally collected information from unsecured WiFi networks around the world.
Whilst the exact amount and species of the data collected has never been fully explained, examples such as snippets of emails, URL’s and passwords were enough to spark real worries given the vast nature of the area travelled by the Street View vehicles, and it has raised real concerns as to how much data (and thus power) large websites (namely Google) should be allowed to obtain and keep.
This matter has rumbled on for most of this year, but today an announcement by deputy information commissioner David Smith said that the data collected would be deleted “as soon as possible” and there would be “no further enquiries into the matter”; as diplomatic as this may sound it is sure to raise anger in the large groups that have been pressuring for the government to fine Google for this ‘breach in privacy’.
The reasoning behind the dropping of investigations was briefly explained by the deputy commissioner when he said that there was no indication that the information had “fallen into the wrong hands”, but this hardly answer the idea that a fine would encourage more stringent procedures to be taken in the future to stop these ‘violations of privacy’.
Of course these enquiries have been global and whilst the UK one has been relatively basic a more persistent investigation in Canada by the respective data commissioner found that amongst other examples of personal information Google had collected lists of the names of people suffering from certain medical conditions.
Of course this puts the onus on the people owning the WiFi network to protect it if they want to protect their data, and arguably that is the way that it should be. It is not especially hard especially as wireless routers pretty much always come with instructions as to how to protect your network, and the information isn’t that difficult to find.
But that is of course my opinion but one that the Government obviously agrees with; that is not to say that there will be no changes in the future as the publicity has definitely made Google rethink how that handle the data they collect for Google Street View across all seven continents and they have already pledged to offer privacy training to all of their staff something that will hopefully avoid fiascos like this in the future!
Via – The Telegraph