In 2010, it was revealed that Google had collected personal information of users with its Street View vehicles. The controversy that went along with that continues, even now in to mid-2012. The company recently revealed that it found more related data, which was supposed to have been deleted. This, of course, has the authorities up in arms over the matter yet again.
Last week, it was CNIL, the French privacy authority demanding Google’s street view data, which the company. This week, Timothy Pilgrim, Privacy Commissioner for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) sent Google a letter (via The Register) indicating that the company must be audited by a third-party to make sure it has actually deleted all data.
Here’s the meat and potatoes of the letter:
The payload data was collected from unsecured WiFi networks by Google in 2010. The OAIC conducted an investigation into the collection of the payload data under s 40(2) the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). After that investigation Google advised our Office that in March 2011 all payload data was destroyed. I understand from your letter that Google has now discovered additional disks containing payload data. You also advise that Google intends to destroy the additional disks unless I require a different course of action.
National Privacy Principle 4.2 requires that an organisation must take reasonable steps to destroy or permanently de-identify personal information if it is no longer needed for any purpose for which the information may be used or disclosed under NPP2.
I do not require Google to retain the additional payload data and, unless there is a lawful purpose for its retention, Google should immediately destroy the data. Once this has occurred I would like confirmation from an independent third party that the data has been destroyed. Further, I would also request that Google undertakes an audit to ensure that no other disks containing this data exist, and to advise me once this audit is completed.
I would add that I am concerned that the existence of these additional disks has come to light, particularly as Google had advised that the data was destroyed. Organisations that retain personal information that is no longer required could leave individuals at risk should it be misused.
Google initially indicated that all related data had been terminated in March of last year, but Google revealed to a number of authorities last month, that it had found more. Expect more similar orders from more of those authorities.
In more upbeat Street View news, Google did partner with NASA, revealing some impressive imagery from Kennedy Space Center last week.