Google could face privacy fine in the UK

Google is being investigated by the UK’s Information Commissioner following the search company's confession that the data it stole with its Street View cars included personal emails, passwords and other information.

Google could be first company to be fined under British privacy laws. The Information Commission likes to talk about how it has the power to levy fines of up to £500,000 for privacy breaches but is yet to bite that bullet - not that such a sum would particularly hurt Google, but the damage to its image could prove more expensive.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham yesterday said that he would be going back to Google to glean more information concerning its antics.

The ICO has already visited Google once but was suckered by the line that it was all a big mistake and that the data wasn't meaningful anyway. Subsequent investigations by third parties have shown that the data Google collected was far from harmless, containing personally-identifiable information, bank passwords, web histories, personal emails; essentially anything it could get its hands on.

“Now that these findings are starting to emerge, we understand that Google has accepted that in some instances entire URLs and emails have been captured. We will be making enquires to see whether this information relates to the data inadvertently captured in the UK, before deciding on the necessary course of action, including a consideration of the need to use our enforcement powers," the Commission said in a statement.

Having initially refused to come clean to German authorities who first got wind that Google's Street View cars were doing more than taking snaps of streets, private houses and people going about their daily business, the search outfit as claimed the collection of Wi-fi data was a mistake.

Sorry Google. Collecting and storing 800GB of data is not simply not something you can do by mistake.

It now emerges that the 'snippets' of data it collected are far more than that.

For its part, Google has appointed a new director of privacy, Alma Whitten, and all Google’s 23,000 staff will now will have to go on privacy courses - or possibly courses on how to explain it all away when you get caught.