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UK disputes "simple mistake" defense in Street View debacle

updated 03:06 pm EDT, Tue June 12, 2012

Investigation reopened amid concerns

UK authorities have reopened their investigation surrounding Google's Street View data-collection program, following concerns that the search giant may not have been forthcoming in its previous statements. Information Commissioner's Office enforcement chief Steve Eckersley has asked the company to provide responses to fresh questions related to the debacle, which the agency previously criticized without imposing any punishment.

Google initially claimed the unencrypted Wi-Fi data, which may have included passwords and other sensitive information, was accidentally collected after an experimental tracking system was enabled by a lone engineer. The program was said to be run without prior permission, unbeknownst to the management and executives.

The ICO initially found Google to be guilty of violating UK laws related to data protection, though the explanation provided by the company appears to have been deemed sufficient to avoid punishment aside from a public scolding. After the program was investigated by the US Federal Communications Commission, however, fresh details appeared to contradict the reports first provided by Google. Documents suggest the system may have been knowingly initiated, with approval from management.

"We were specifically told by Google that it was a simple mistake," Eckersley wrote in a letter to Google executive Alan Eustace. "If the data was collected deliberately, then it is clear that this is a different situation than was reported to us in April 2010."

Google has promised to cooperate with the fresh investigation, while continuing to note that staff did not view the collected data. US representatives have called for the government's Street View investigation to be reopened, though it remains unclear if the search company will face additional scrutiny in its home country. [Via AP]

by MacNN Staff



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