Google's data theft breaches go global

Nicole McCormick & Dylan Bushell-Embling
21 May 2010

The privacy storm surrounding Google’s Street View service has spilled over to Asia, with Google agreeing to delete personal data it mistakenly collected over Wi-Fi networks in Hong Kong.

In a meeting with Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner Roderick B. Woo, Google agreed to “submit to the Commissioner all the data collected in Hong Kong through the Wi-Fi network for inspection,” said the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

At the meeting, Google’s head of government affairs in Asia Ross LaJeunesse also agreed to “delete all data collected through the Wi-Fi network (save the non-personal data already extracted)” as and when required by Woo.

Google also said it would suspend all Street View cars in Hong Kong until Google can guarantee that the operation is no longer collecting personal data.

During the meeting, Woo recalled that “when the Street View commenced operation in Hong Kong, Google had stated that the Hong Kong people’s privacy in relation to their personal data would be protected.”

Google now concedes that its Street View cars in Hong Kong had mistakenly collected and recorded non-password protected data which might have included personal data, said the OPC.

Meanwhile, Macau's Office for Personal Data Protection has sent a letter to Google inquiring about similar Wi-Fi breaches of personal data,

The violation of Macau’s personal data protection laws is an administrative crime which could be punishable under criminal law, said

Privacy officials from Germany called for an European Commission investigation into Street View’s data-collection practices earlier this week, and want to review the data before forcing Google to delete it.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt on Tuesday called “no harm no foul” on the data collection, stating that it's highly unlikely that any of the collected information was useful, the BBCsaid.

Yet he said Google would not delete the information unless ordered to do so.

But Schmidt its recent privacy battles had colored every decision its management team makes regarding new technologies, including facial recognition technology.

Google already uses facial recognition technology in its Picasa photo uploading service, but did not include the technology in its Google Goggles augmented reality app after privacy campaigners raised fears it could become the ideal stalking tool and aid in identity fraud.

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