The UK government is threatening to sue Google over invasion of privacy through its Street View program. The company recently received an enforcement notice from the British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The watchdog agency gave the Internet search engine giant 35 days in which to destroy four discs of information gleaned from unsecured WiFi networks by its Street View cars.
Under the notice, Google must delete the data by the deadline or be held in contempt of court, which is a criminal offense, according to a statement by the UK regulator.
The issue arose after Google admitted last year it retained the discs accidentally. The company has promised that it would destroy any personal data collected via the Street View vehicles. The firm has been fined by numerous regulators around the world over WiFi breaches via the Street View vehicles.
In 2011, a French privacy regulator fined Google 100,000 euros ($132,000) over a breach of privacy.
Hamburg’s data privacy regulator did the same in April, imposing a fine of 145,000 euros ($191,000) for breach of privacy due to wireless network data collected from 2008 to 2010 by Street View cars as they took photographs.
“We work hard to get privacy right at Google, but in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue,” said Al Verney in a statement, a Brussels-based spokesperson for Google.
“The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it. We cooperated fully with the ICO throughout its investigation, and having received its order we are proceeding with our plan to delete the data.”
Global regulators have also written to Google chief executive officer Larry Page to contact them about possible issues with the firm’s latest project, web-enabled eyeglasses, called “Google Glass.”