Google guilty of "significant breach" over Street View data harvesting

The Information Commissioner's Office has found Google guilty of committing a "serious breach", when its Street View cars harvested a variety of personal data from homes as they passed.

The ruling has come after months of deliberation, after the search giant announced its mistake in May 2010. Contrary to the previous findings of the ICO, which found that Google hadn't collected any "meaningful personal details", it was announced that such data had been collected. This data included a large number of personal email addresses and passwords.

And its ruling? Surely a large fine. Or perhaps some kind of rigorous enforcement of privacy policy? Well, no not exactly. Google's promise not to do it again appears to be punishment enough, oh, and the deletion of the data.

As Christopher Graham, information commissioner stated: "It is my view that the collection of this information was not fair or lawful and constitutes a significant breach of the first principle of the Data Protection Act (DPA)".

"The most appropriate and proportionate regulatory action in these circumstances is to get written legal assurance from Google that this will not happen again - and to follow this up with an ICO audit".

In response, Google's global privacy counsel said that: "We are profoundly sorry for mistakenly collecting payload data in the UK from unencrypted wireless networks.

"Since we announced our mistake in May we have cooperated closely with the ICO and worked to improve our internal controls. As we have said before, we did not want this data, have never used any of it in our products or services, and have sought to delete it as quickly as possible".

To some, the ICO's actions fall short, and privacy campaigners were calling for some kind of fine, as the ICO has the power to fine up to £500,000 for such breaches. With Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, telling the Guardian: "The information commissioner's failure to take action is disgraceful".

Are you happy with the ICO's findings? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.