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V3 reporter Dan Worth

UK Reopens Google Street View Wi-Fi Investigation

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Google Street View on Westminster Bridge

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reopened its investigation into Google's Street View Wi-Fi collecting in light of recent revelations that the firm was fully aware the technology would grab users' data.

In a letter to the search giant, the data watchdog said it believed the original claims made by Google that data was collected erroneously were misleading. A report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found a Google engineer had warned his bosses the project had the potential to gather personal data.

“A typical concern might be that we are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they are doing,” the engineer had warned.

The ICO said it now believes information relating to IP addresses, telephone numbers, email messages, instant messages and their content, login credentials, and information relating to the use of online dating and pornographic sites were all captured.

“It therefore seems likely that such information was deliberately captured during the GSV [Google Street View] operations conducted in the UK,” the letter said. "However, during the course of our investigation we were specifically told by Google that it was a simple mistake. If the data was collected deliberately it is clear this is a different situation than was reported to us in April 2010. Given the findings of the FCC we have reopened our investigation.”

The ICO has now asked Google to provide further information about its Street View project, including exactly what type of data was captured by the firm and why it was not revealed to the ICO during its first investigation.

A Google spokesman said the firm would comply with the requests for information and said no data captured was ever used by the firm.

"We're happy to answer the ICO's questions. We have always said that the project leaders did not want and did not use this payload data. Indeed, they never even looked at it," they said.

This article was originally published on V3.


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