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Google Signs Data Handling Agreement

An agreement with UK data authorities brings with it the assurance that the WiFi data Google collected in the UK will be deleted.

Thomas Claburn

November 19, 2010

2 Min Read

The UK Information Commissioner on Friday announced that Google has signed a commitment to improve how it handles data. The agreement stems from Google's acknowledgement in May that it had inadvertently collected WiFi packet data via network scanning software in its Street View image collection cars.

Google SVP Alan Eustace, who first disclosed the unauthorized WiFi data collection, signed the agreement on behalf of Google. The agreement commits the company to improved training related to security awareness and data handling for all employees, which Google has already said it will do.

Last month, Eustace said that the company is taking three specific steps to address the issues raised through its WiFi data collection. These include the appointment of a director of privacy, a new information security awareness program, and a new internal compliance process for product design.

"We will be keeping a close watch on the progress Google makes and will follow up with an extensive audit," said UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham in a statement. "Meanwhile, I welcome the fact that the WiFi payload data that should never have been collected in the first place can, at last, be deleted."

Graham's announcement comes a day after Google launched Street View in 20 German cities, a process delayed by the special privacy accommodations Google made in the country.

Owing to politics of privacy in Germany, Google allows Germans the option of blurring their houses in Street View. And uncharacteristically, Google has chosen to comply with blurring requests manually, rather than using an automated mechanism.

"Our new manual blurring process completely blocks out a house, car or person, but no longer cuts out all the surrounding scenery as well, such as a nearby street sign or trees," said Google product manager Andreas Tuerk in a blog post. "This enables us to respect requests for removal without blacking out the entire area."

About 244,000 or 3% of households in the covered areas availed themselves of this option, according to Der Spiegel.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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