Google misses German deadline

Search engine outfit Google has taken the brave move of really angering the Germans.

German regulators had given the search engine a deadline to hand over personal data it collected over WiFi networks as part of its Street View scheme.

However, according to the FT,  Google has missed the deadline which means it could face a fine of hundreds of thousands of euros, or $200 US dollars.

The data protection authority in Hamburg had asked Google to submit the original hard drives containing the “payload” data including e-mails or fragments of web pages being visited by individuals using unsecured wireless networks, by midnight yesterday.

It was the Hamburg data protection authority’s request to audit the data collected for Street View, which resulted in Google’s admission two weeks ago that it had “mistakenly” collected personal information.

The Hamburg information commissioner wanted to have a look at one of the Google cars and apparently has done that.

Google has asked for more time to consider the legal ramifications of sharing private data with the regulator after being advised that doing so could break German communications law.

In otherwords it is trying to “plead the fifth” in a European court, which will not go down well.

In a statement Google said that it wanted to co-operate with [the Hamburg information commissioner’s] requests.  However if it granted access to payload data creates legal challenges in Germany which we need to review, we are continuing to discuss the appropriate legal and logistical process for making the data available.

Dr Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s data protection commissioner, said  the search company would not face criminal action by handing over the hard drive.

However earlier reports in Germany suggested that Prof Caspar could fine Google €300,000 for missing the deadline.

Google has one supporter among the privacy campaigners. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which slammed Google as “too mature to be making these kinds of rookie privacy mistakes” agreed that it was not good to share further expose private information.

In a statement the EFF said that calls from some quarters for Google to turn over the data to the US or other governments are wrong-headed. “To allow a government to investigate a privacy breach by further violating privacy is senseless,” the EFF said.

Google had been in the process of deleting the data it had collected following confusion over what it should do with the material. It had deleted the data it collected in Ireland, it halted plans to dispose of the information in the UK after a complaint from Privacy International that such a move would be destroying “evidence”.