ICO blasts Street View hysteria

The data regulator has called for calm following what it called ‘emotive’ press reports after Google admitted it had captured highly sensitive data from people’s wifi networks – including emails, passwords and URLs – when constructing its Street View service.
In a statement issued by the Office of the Information Commissioner, it called for “a calm and measured approach to the issue of data privacy” and that it must “ensure that we do not get caught up in the emotive arguments which will only naturally take place around sensitive issues such as the inadvertent collection of data by Google Street View.”
However it did concede that Google could face stiff penalties. “Now that these findings are starting to emerge, we understand that Google has accepted that in some instances entire URLs and emails and passwords have been captured,” the statement read. “We have already made enquires to see whether this admission relates to the data inadvertently captured in the UK, and we are now deciding on the necessary course of action, including a consideration of the need to use our enforcement powers.”
Google admitted earlier in the year that code used the Street View cars to detect wireless networks was at fault for the collection of private data. Using this code, the Street View cars were able to collect data from unsecured wireless networks, which could include details of websites visited, emails and passwords.
The company alerted the authorities when it found the error and is working with all relevant bodies to ensure that the data collected is deleted.
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