Canada says Google Street View breach was 'careless error'

Canada's privacy commissioner has recommended that Google implement new policies to avoid future privacy breaches

Canada's privacy commissioner recommended that Google implement new policies to ensure that another "careless error" doesn't lead to a privacy breach like the one caused by the company's Street View vehicles.

The recommendations are the result of an investigation by Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner into the way that Google's Street View cameras collected personal information sent by people over Wi-Fi networks. Canada now joins other countries including Germany, Spain, France, South Korea, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. in complaining, and in some cases filing lawsuits, about the privacy breach.

Officials from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner visited Google's headquarters to examine data that was collected by the vehicles that collect images and other data for Google's Street View service. They looked at only a small sample of data in order to protect privacy, so they can't say how much personal information was collected.

But they found complete e-mails, user names, passwords, names and phone numbers. They also found a list of names, addresses and phone numbers of people who suffer a certain medical condition.

"It is likely that thousands of Canadians were affected by the incident," the commission said in a statement.

Google Street View vehicles take pictures as they drive down streets in order to stitch together images that users view on the Street View mapping service. The vehicles also collect GPS and Wi-Fi information in order to record location of the photos. However, earlier this year Google admitted that the cars were also gathering data transmitted over unsecured Wi-Fi connections. The company said it was unaware that the data was being collected, blaming an engineer who added code to the Street View vehicles as part of a side project to sample the categories of data carried over open Wi-Fi networks. The company has since ceased collecting Wi-Fi data from Street View vehicles.

Canada's privacy commissioner made a number of recommendations to Google to ensure that a similar issue doesn't arise in the future. Google should put in place a governance model that ensures that procedures for protecting privacy are in place and followed before launching products.

Google should also enhance privacy training to foster compliance among all employees, the commissioner said. Also, per Canadian privacy law, Google should designate people responsible for privacy issues and for complying with the organization's privacy obligations.

The commissioner also recommended that Google delete the data it collected from Canadians.

If Google implements these recommendations by Feb. 1, 2011, the commission will consider the issue resolved.

Google did not say if it planned to implement the recommendations. In a statement, it said that it is "profoundly sorry" for having collected the data. "As soon as we realized what had happened, we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. We have been working with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in its investigation and will continue to answer the commissioner's questions and concerns," the company said.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyinternetGooglesearch engines

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?