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Google ordered to hand over data

Google has been ordered to surrender personal data collected from unsecured UK wifi networks amid claims it "appears" to have breached a deal to delete the material.

Last month the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) reopened its investigation into Google's Street View cars and the personal data it harvested.

In November 2010, Google agreed to delete all the information by December that year. But the ICO has now said that Google - which has apologised - had written to it saying it still had the information and had sought advice from it.

An ICO spokesman said: "Google contacted the ICO to confirm that it still had in its possession some of the payload data collected by its Street View vehicles prior to May 2010. This data was supposed to have been deleted in December 2010.

"The fact that some of this information still exists appears to breach the undertaking to the ICO signed by Google in November 2010. In its letter to the ICO, Google indicated that it wanted to delete the remaining data and asked for the ICO's instructions on how to proceed.

"Our response, which has already been issued, makes clear that Google must supply the data to the ICO immediately, so that we can subject it to forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action.

"We are also in touch with other data protection authorities in the EU (European Union) and elsewhere through the Article 29 working party and the GPEN network to co-ordinate the response to this development. The ICO has always been clear that this should never have happened in the first place and the company's failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern."

Peter Fleisher, Google's global privacy counsel, said: "Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the UK. Google apologises for this error."

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: "The ICO was wrong to insist that Google delete the data it captured, a decision that means we will never know the scale of the privacy intrusion they were guilty of. However, we now have an opportunity to explore just how sensitive the information was.

"Given that Google failed to respect people's privacy in the first place and subsequently failed to adhere to its agreement with the Information Commissioner, serious questions need to be asked to understand why Google seemingly sees itself as above the law."

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