Google’s Google Privacy Counsel, Peter Fleischer has “apologized” (using US spelling for the word “apologise” despite being sent on "Google France SARL" letterhead) to the UK’s Head of Enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) Steve Ekersley, for an “error”.
Mr Fleischer’s letter, (here as PDF from the ICO site) noted that “Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the UK” and immediately followed this statement up with “Google apologizes for this error”.
It’s not only the UK that has Streetview data that shouldn’t have been collected in the first place still living on in Google’s systems – the UK's "The Telegraph" noted that “Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Australia” were also on the list, with the “relevant authorities in those countries” being contacted by Google in presumably the same manner as in the UK.
Google says “would now like to delete the remaining UK data, but would like your instructions on how to proceed”, but that it is “prepared to arrange for you to review this data, or to destroy it”, helping concluding that “Google remains committed to working with the ICO on this matter”.
“I confirm that the ICO do now intend to examine the contents of the remaining UK payload data and I ask that the data is stored securely until such time that we can complete our examination. Once that examination has been completed I will be in a better position to advise you on how to proceed in terms of destruction. In the meantime, could you please start the arrangements to enable us to examine the data as soon as practicable.”
The ICO has also issued a statement which spoke of Google having contacted the ICO about May 2010 data that should have been deleted in 2010, but hasn’t, “appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010”.
It then states that the ICO definitely wants to see the data immediately for its own “forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action”, while working with other “data protection authorities in the EU and elsewhere” so a response can be co-ordinated.
The statement sternly ends by saying: “The ICO is clear that this information should never have been collected in the first place and the company’s failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern.”
After all, when Google has consolidated all its privacy policies so it can know everything about you for its Google Now service, while wanting to see and record everything you see, say, do when wearing Google Glass to be able to digitally predict your actions, needs and desires and deliver you to what it hopes is the most relevant advertising coupled with what is hopefully still going to be the most relevant content – and wants us to trust that it will not abuse the power that all of that real-time information on all of its users delivers.
Honestly, it isn’t a good look for Google when it forces us to ogle its failure in deleting data the company should not have collected in the first place!
Is this "error" an oversight and human error, or is there, as the ICO notes, a “cause for concern”?