Google has apologised after discovering it still has some payload data slurped from unsecured Wi-Fi networks via its controversial Street View spycars.
It had earlier vowed to delete this sensitive information after worldwide outcry against the wireless packet hoarding.
However, the ad giant's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer admitted in a letter to the Britain's Information Commissioner's Office today that it still had "in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the UK".
He added: "Google apologises for this error."
The ICO immediately responded to the confession by demanding that the company hand over the data for inspection.
The UK watchdog came under fire last year for its "lily-livered" handling of Google's data-slurping operation. The regulator then toughened its stance against Google by reopening its investigation of the Street View spycars: the camera-fitted roving motors had not just taken photographs of street scenes for Google's map service, but also collected data including emails and passwords from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks they encountered between 2006 and 2010.
An ICO spokesperson said this afternoon:
In their letter to the ICO today, Google indicated that they wanted to delete the remaining data and asked for the ICO’s instructions on how to proceed. Our response, which has already been issued, makes clear that Google must supply the data to the ICO immediately, so that we can subject it to forensic analysis before deciding on the necessary course of action.
We are also in touch with other data protection authorities in the EU and elsewhere through the Article 29 Working Party and the GPEN network to coordinate the response to this development.
The ICO is clear that this information should never have been collected in the first place and the company’s failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern.
Europe's independent advisory group on data protection - the Article 29 Working Group - is vice-chaired by the UK's information commissioner Christopher Graham.
Click this way for today's correspondence between the ICO and Google. ®