After being caught spying on people across Australia and Europe with its Wi-Fi-slurping Street View cars, Google told regulators it would delete the ill-gotten data – but it has broken its promise.
Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office has received a letter from Google in which the company admits it kept a ”small portion” of the electronic information collected from Britain and other countries.
”Google apologises for this error,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in the letter, which the commissioner’s office published.
The commissioner’s office said in a statement that Google, which is based in California, had agreed to delete all the data nearly two years ago, adding that its failure to do so ”is cause for concern”.
Other regulators were less diplomatic, with Ireland’s Deputy Commissioner for Data Protection, Gary Davis, calling Google’s failure ”clearly unacceptable”.
Mr Davis said his organisation had conveyed its ”deep unhappiness” to Google and wants answers by Wednesday.
Google said other countries affected included Australia, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Google angered officials on both sides of the Atlantic in 2010 when it acknowledged that its mapping cars, which carried cameras to create three-dimensional maps of the world’s streets, had also scooped up passwords and other data being transmitted over unsecured wireless networks. Investigators have since revealed the data included private information, including legal, medical and pornographic material.
Google had meant to purge the data, and it chalked up its mistake to human error. The company said it recently discovered the data while undertaking a comprehensive manual review of Street View disks. It had contacted regulators in all the countries where it had promised to delete data but realised it had not.