The first survey has been done on the private data Google gathered with its Street View cars. Investigators from the Information Commissioner's Office in the United Kingdom have reviewed samples of the data and ruled that there is no meaningful information swept up in the harvest.
Code had been included in the software that powers the cars' cameras and they wound up collecting much more information than was allowable in most cases. This resulted in a host of investigations and lawsuits.
According to PC Magazine, the ICO released a statement that said, in part:
"(I)t is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data. There is also no evidence as yet that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment."
This same office cleared Google Street View of charges several years ago by privacy activists.
"Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals."
Perhaps they were right. But then again, perhaps the British threshold for tolerance of data compromise will prove to be lower than other countries. The U.K., after all, has the most extravagant public surveillance system in the world in place. Exactly how many is impossible to say, as that information is not made public. Several years ago, it was calculated at 4.2 million, one camera for every 14 people.
Other countries, from France and Italy to Canada and the U.S. may be somewhat more demanding in their definition of terms like "significant amounts" and "individual detriment."
Just a week ago, we reported that 38 of 50 U.S. states' highest law enforcement authorities had agreed to collaborate on an investigation of Google.Discuss