The UK’s data protection watchdog has re-opened the investigation after Google’s comments in an earlier UK probe may have been contradicted in a report by the US Federal Communications Commission in April, which said the company unlawfully intercepted and stored data through its Street View location service, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
“We were specifically told by Google that it was a simple mistake and if the data was collected deliberately then it is clear that this is a different situation than was reported to us in April 2010,” the Wilmslow, England-based regulator said in a letter to the company and distributed to the media. “Given the findings of the FCC we have re-opened our investigation.”
Earlier, FCC fined Google $25,000 for impeding its investigation into improper data gathering. Google agreed to further ICO audits of its privacy practices in November 2012.
“We’re happy to answer the ICO’s questions,” a Google spokesman, who declined to be identified, said in an e-mailed statement. “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 ICO said that its review of the FCC’s findings suggested that sensitive data in the so-called “payload” included “complete email messages, email headings, instant messages and their content, logging-in credentials, medical listings and legal infractions, information in relation to online dating and visits to pornographic sites”.
“It therefore seems likely that such information was deliberately captured by [Google Street View] operations conducted in the UK,” wrote Steve Eckersley, the ICO’s head of enforcement. “However, during the course of our investigation we were specifically told by Google that it was a simple mistake.”