UK gives Google slap on wrist for WiFi data collection snafu

The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) concluded that Google violated U.K. laws with its Street View WiFi collection practices but it's giving the search giant a slap on the wrist.

The agency won't impose a fine because the majority of the data was collected by Google prior to April 6, the day the agency gained the power to fine organizations that break the Data Protection Act of 1998. Google has agreed to delete the data.

Google indicated back in may that it had inadvertently collected information from WiFi routers that weren't encrypted.

"Monetary penalties can only be served when a strict set of criteria is satisfied, including that the breach was likely to cause substantial harm or substantial distress--this alone would be very hard to prove in this case," according to an ICO statement.

However, Google must undergo an audit within the next month by ICO and must sign an agreement that says Google will face further action unless the company ensures data is protected.

Google's WiFi collection program remains under investigation by agencies in several countries. In Germany, Hamburg's Data Protection Authority (DPA) and the city's prosecutor's office continue to examine the data and whether collecting it broke German laws.

Last month, Spain's Data Protection Agency said it is investigating Google for up to five infractions of its laws over the collection of WiFi data, and in August, South Korean police raided Google's offices and launched an investigation into unauthorized data collection and illegal wiretapping.

Google, however, has indicated  it has no plans to resurrect its Street View cars to collect information about the location of WiFi networks. Google's revelation appeared in a report about Street View released by Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddard. She said that "collection is discontinued and Google has no plans to resume it." Google had used the data to aid in geolocation services. Stoddard said that based on her conversations with Google, the company plans to glean the needed information from users' handsets. It appears the company is using crowdsourced data to refine its mapping capabilities.

For more:
- see this IDG News Service article

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