Outcry as UK watchdog clears Google of snooping

The UK’s Information Commissioner has ruled that Google did no harm with its unauthorised collection of Wifi data, a move which has angered privacy campaigners.

After examining the data harvested by the company’s Street View cars, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) concluded that it was unlikely any significant data had been retained.

“The information we saw does not include meaningful personal details that could be linked to an identifiable person,” a spokesperson said.

“On the basis of the samples we saw, we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data. There is also no evidence as yet that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment.”

But Alex Deane of privacy group Big Brother Watch called the decision “little short of farcical”.

“The Metropolitan police are currently investigating Google over this very issue,” he says. “If the allegations against Google merit an investigation by the police, who have to consider the criminal standard of fault, how can those allegations not be said to merit an investigation by the ICO?”

Google is still under investigation over the issue in a number of countries, incuding Germany, France and the US.

Said the ICO spokesperson: “As we have only seen samples of the records collected in the UK, we recognise that other data protection authorities conducting a detailed analysis of all the payload data collected in their jurisdictions may nevertheless find samples of information which can be linked to identifiable individuals.”