Information collected by the passing Street View cars included passwords, emails, and other data that was being transmitted wirelessly over unprotected routers. Google had first said it had not collected personal data. It later stated such data was in fragments. Finally the software firm had accepted it had access to much more data, such as entire e-mails.
In the US, the company was fined $25,000 by the FCC for allegedly obstructing the investigation, but the agency decided no privacy laws had been broken.
But Google may not be getting away from the issue so easily in the UK. According to the BBC report, “the Information Commissioner’s Office, which had previously dropped a probe into the affair after being told limited data had been “mistakenly collected” has now become aware of reports that a Google engineer had deliberately written software to obtain a wider range of material.”
However Google is not blinking. At least not yet.
BBC spoke to a Google spokesman who said, “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.”
The entire episode has highlighted the contemptuous manner in which Google has been treating customer privacy. A recent Wall Street Journal report has revealed how Google had exploited cookies to track the web-surfing habits of Apple’s Safari users.
What happened to the ‘Don’t be evil’ motto, Google?