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UK privacy watchdog clears Google Wi-Fi slurp

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The “pay-load” data collected by Google’s Street View cars did not slurp up “meaningful personal details”, the UK’s privacy watchdog concluded today.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) confirmed in April that it would quiz Google about the practice.

Today it ruled (pdf) that the company hadn’t grabbed information that “could be linked to an identifiable person.”

The ICO said it had only seen samples of some of the data Google inadvertently collected via its Street View vehicles, and admitted that other authorities investigating the practice could yet find information that might be easily linked to an individual.

“However, 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,” said the ICO in a carefully-worded statement this morning.

“There is also no evidence as yet that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment. Nevertheless it was wrong to collect the information.”

The Street View fleet had been recording the MAC addresses and locations of Wi-Fi networks as they photographed national roads across the globe.

Google’s data slurp is still under investigations by privacy watchdogs in Germany, France and the US.

In June Google blamed a rogue Mountain View software coder for scooping up the Wi-Fi data, despite the fact that the company had applied for a patent on the technology in January this year. ®

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