LONDON — After being caught spying on people across Europe and Australia with its Wi-Fi-slurping Street View cars, Google had told angry regulators that it would delete the ill-gotten data.
Google broke its promise.
Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office received a letter from Google in which the company admits it kept a “small portion” of the electronic information it had been meaning to get rid of.
“Google apologizes for this error,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in the letter, which the ICO published on its website.
The ICO said in a statement that Google Inc. had agreed to delete all that data nearly two years ago, adding that its failure to do so “is cause for concern.”
Other regulators were less diplomatic, with Ireland’s deputy commissioner for data protection, Gary Davis, calling Google’s failure “clearly unacceptable.” Davis said his organization had conveyed its “deep unhappiness” to Google and wants answers by Wednesday.
Google said countries affected included France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, and Australia. Attempts to reach regulators in several of those countries were not immediately successful Friday.
Google angered officials on both sides of the Atlantic in 2010 when it acknowledged that its mapping cars, which carried cameras across the globe to create three-dimensional maps of the world’s streets, had also scooped up passwords and other data being transmitted over unsecured wireless networks. Investigators have since revealed that the intercepted data included private information including legal, medical, and pornographic material.
The company said it recently discovered the data while undertaking a comprehensive manual review of Street View disks. The company said it had contacted regulators in all of the countries where it had promised to delete data but realized it had not.
It is unclear what, if any, penalties would be imposed on Google by Britain’s ICO or regulators in any of the 10 other jurisdictions in which the company had wrongly retained Street View data.