UK: Google Street View Data Snarfing Broke the Law

Search giant Google violated the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act by gobbling up personal data, in addition to images and GPS data, with its roving Street View autos. 

According to a report by the BBC, the UK’s Information Commissioner ruled there was a “significant breach” of the country’s data privacy laws by Google, which will not face monetary penalties or punishment, but will have to allow its data protection practices to be audited by the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

Search giant Google violated the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act by gobbling up personal data, in addition to images and GPS data, with its roving Street View autos. 

According to a report by the BBC, the UK’s Information Commissioner ruled there was a “significant breach” of the country’s data privacy laws by Google, which will not face monetary penalties or punishment, but will have to allow its data protection practices to be audited by the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

The decision is just the latest by regulators who were prompted to look into the company’s practice of collecting reams of data from insecure wireless networks, including e-mail addresses, URLs. That revelation, from June, followed months in which Google denied that it captured wireless “payload” data, despite admitting that it collected information on wireless network IDs (SSIDs) and the machine addresses of systems connected to wireless networks that it canvassed. 

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said, in October, that it was satisfied with the steps Google was taking to address the privacy concerns raised by its snarfing of wireless payload data. But states attorneys general in the U.S.have launched investigations into what data the company captured and how it was used, as have other countries, notably: Germany, France and Spain.  

Google StreetView provides on the ground imaging for locations around the world. Google integrates the service with both its Google Maps and Google Earth offering. Street View cars, with rooftop mounted cameras and gear used to coordinate images with geospatial data have become common features of most major cities in the U.S. and Europe. 

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