Google is back under investigation after gathering personal data while cameras on its cars took pictures for its UK Street View service.
The Information Commissioner’s Office previously dropped a probe into the affair after being told limited data had been “mistakenly collected”.
However, it said it had since become aware of reports that a Google engineer had deliberately written software to obtain a wider range of material.
The ICO has asked for more information.
Specifically it wants to know what type of data was captured; when Google managers became aware of the issue; how the news was managed and why the full range of gathered data was not represented in a sample the firm presented to it in 2010.
Furthermore it has requested a certificate to show that the data had since been destroyed.
Read more on BBC.
It’s hard not to view this as anything more than “Data Protection Theater.” I don’t recall ever seeing anyone use that phrase before, but it seems like a useful generalization from “security theater” to describe things governments do that are supposed to protect our data and privacy but don’t.
In this case, the ICO had an opportunity to really investigate the Street View mess but did only minimal investigation. Now it’s embarrassed after the FCC report was released and is making a show of looking into this more. Did the ICO ever ask Google to sign an affidavit attesting that the sample presented represented the full range of data types gathered? According to the ICO’s letter to Google, Google misled them. Now they’re asking to see design documents and a whole lot more.
That said, I don’t expect anything really useful to come out of this investigation other than to accomplish some egg-removing from the ICO’s face.