Google broke privacy laws: watchdog

October 19, 2010

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada found that Google Inc. violated privacy laws when it collected personal wireless data in 2008 by dispatching cars across the country to photograph and map street views.

"This incident was the result of a careless error - one that could easily have been avoided," Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said in a statement Tuesday.

The regulator has asked Google to install a governance model and procedures to ensure that its employees comply with Canada's privacy rules. The Commission has also asked the Mountain View, Calif.-based company to delete data collected in Canada. Google has been given until February to comply with the recommendations.

Read the news release

The Commission said in a statement that personal information was collected by Google's Street View cars because equipment software designed to locate and map WiFi networks also collected so-called "payload data" from nearby homes and businesses. This data would include all wireless communications and transmissions that are not protected by password protections.

The privacy regulator faulted Google for a "superficial" review of the car's collection design and for failing to forward the software code design to a company lawyer "responsible for reviewing the legal implications of the WiFi project - contrary to company policy."

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