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Google Draws Ire of British Over Gross Invasion of Privacy



It appears that if you are looking for real job security in today’s market you would want to be part of the Google legal team. Not only does everyone and their brother want to hit them up stateside in hopes of hitting a Legal Lotto payday but all around the world even governments are anxious to get a piece of the search giant’s cash.

The latest to chime in? The British who are none too happy about Google’s Street View shenanigans. For Google, Street View appears to be the business equivalent of an STD since ongoing legal issues will apparently be the gift that keeps on giving.

The Independent reports

Google faces being the first company to incur heavy fines under British privacy laws, after admitting downloading private emails and passwords.

Britain’s Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, announced yesterday that he is launching a new investigation into the Street View project, in which Google sent cars around photographing residential streets.

Last Friday Google fired a bit of a preemptive strike when Alan Eustace, Senior VP, Engineering & Research wrote on the Google Public Policy blog:

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to update one point in my May blog post. When I wrote it, no one inside Google had analyzed in detail the data we had mistakenly collected, so we did not know for sure what the disks contained. Since then a number of external regulators have inspected the data as part of their investigations (seven of which have now been concluded). It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords. We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users.

That’s pretty funny. The approach of, “Gee shucks guys we didn’t think that any real data would have been collected when we spied on your wireless network!”, while legally prudent, comes off sounding pretty dumb. Did anyone really think that Google got lucky and didn’t gather any truly sensitive data during this ‘mistake’?

Britain’s powers that be have used this admission to help move forward in what is likely to be as much a political move as a practical one (what isn’t these days, right?)

“Now that these findings are starting to emerge, we understand that Google has accepted that in some instances entire URLs and emails have been captured. We will be making enquires to see whether this information relates to the data inadvertently captured in the UK, before deciding on the necessary course of action, including a consideration of the need to use our enforcement powers.”

Will Google be able to shake this Street View thing loose without paying the piper somewhere along the line? The law of averages may be against them if more governments decide to take this route as well.

Small price to pay I suppose considering the performance Goggle reported recently, huh? These kinds of mistakes may just be classified under “cost of doing business” since it’s all new anyway.