After reviewing data that the GoogleMobiles collected while mapping locations for its Streetview service, the ICO said: “On the basis of the samples we saw, we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data.”
It said that “there is also no evidence” that any data Google acquired “has caused or could cause any individual detriment.” Tell that to the people who have begun lawsuits against the search giant.
Google was obviously overjoyed, having faced investigations from numerous countries over the privacy problem. It said today: “We welcome the news that the data protection authorities in the UK have found that the payload data contained no meaningful personal information.”
Google has blamed the trouble on a rogue engineer, who coded the Wi-Fi tapping software in his spare time. It only affected open Wi-Fi networks, but considering how many people fail to encrypt their routers, this meant access to thousands of users’ internet information.
The ICO still believes Google made a mistake and was wrong to have allowed it to happen, but its findings published today reveal that it does not believe the mistake is quite as catastrophic and invasive as previously assumed.
It is not fully in the clear in the UK, however, as it still faces an investigation by the Metropolitan Police, not to mention other investigations by Australia, France, Germany, Spain, and the US, where it has been suggested that Google has been in cahoots with the government at the top level.
The ICO said it will be watching closely the findings of these investigations and will review the case if Google is found to have broken any laws.