Google in “significant breach” of Data Protection Laws

This story just doesn’t seem to want to go away. Google admitted in May that it had been accidentally collecting personal data from unsecured networks when mapping towns for StreetView.

It all kicked off when the German authorities asked Google to audit its data. It probably couldn’t have been worse, as the Germans are notoriously strict on privacy. Next came Canada who determined that Google had breached its privacy laws, and now the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has said Google has committed a “significant breach” of the data protection laws.

And the outcome? Will Google be fined, as the Information Commissioner can require? No – the ICO will audit Google’s data protection practices and policies. I guess this is seen as a more constructive course of action than a simple fine, but you do have to wonder whether it will make any difference.

What do you think about this? Is Google being let off the hook? Is this the precursor to more strict controls? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

[via BBC News]

Post image by FanIntoFlames – used under Creative Commons License.

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  1. Kevin Tea says:

    I have two opposing views on this.

    One part of me wants Google to get hammered because of the obvious breach of trust. The Buzz debacle should never have happened. Here we have a company full of people with brains the size of a small planet – obviously not this one – who cannot foresee the outcry over blasting people’s private data to all and sundry. Now with Street View they have stepped over the “don’t be evil” line and consciously garnered people’s private data. This was not a mistake. This was a deliberate act of data mining.

    The other half of me, the cloud computing evangelist, is worried that too much bad publicity will hamper the adoption of cloud technology. OK, the Information Commissioner has let Google off and there’s no financial penalty but let’s be honest Google could probably buy the UK at the moment.

    I am thinking of changing my name to Dai Chotomy!

    • Thanks Kevin, I kind of feel the same way. I don’t want companies to stop innovating because they fear being fined, but I do think there should have been more of a response than an audit.

      In the (few) occasions I’ve tried to deal with the Information Commissioner over companies who refuse to stop sending me marketing material, I’ve found the ICO to be a somewhat impotent protector.

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