Google escapes Canadian court over Street View

Arch super-snooper Google has escaped legal action in Canada, despite being found to have made a "serious violation" of its privacy laws by the country's chief privacy watchdog.

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said she was satisfied that the collection of data carried on unprotected Wi-Fi networks - so-called "payload data" - by the search giant's Street View cars as they photographed on the country's streets was the "result of a careless error", and not intentional.

"Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information – and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete e-mails, e-mail addresses, usernames and passwords," Stoddart said in a statement.

Despite the breach, Stoddart said that no legal action would be taken against the company, as long as there was no repeat of the incident. She also revealed that Google had been required to make an undertaking to improve the privacy training it provides to its employees.

Google apologised for the breach in May this year.

A spokesperson for Google told IT news site CNet in an e-mail: "As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted networks. As soon as we realised what had happened, we stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities."

According to the report from the Canadian Privacy Commissioner's Office, the rogue code that caused the unauthorised collection of Wi-Fi data happened after a Google engineer broke from company procedure by failing to send the Street View car's design specifications to Google's legal department.