ICO finds Google guilty over Wi-Fi snoop

In a surprising volte-face the Information Commissioner has overturned his original findings on the Google Wi-Fi scandal and declares that the company did, in fact, break UK data protection laws.

That said, however, he has no intentions of, y'know, punishing the company in any way.

For those unfamiliar with the advertising giant's crimes, it turned out that while its Street View cars were driving around the world snapping pictures of people's houses - enough to get the paranoiacs in a tizz in and of itself - the data warehousing specialist was 'accidentally' capturing Wi-Fi traffic.

Worse still, that traffic could including "entire e-mails and URLs, as well as passwords," according to a statement made later by Alan Eustace, senior vice president of Google's engineer and research department, who declared his company "mortified at what happened."

An initial investigation into the matter by the Information Commissioner's Office declared that, as it had been an accident, no wrongdoing had taken place - but since the Australian authorities found the company guilty and the Germans watched as a deadline for handing over its ill-gotten data gains whizzed by, the Information Commissioner reopened the case.

According to a report over on the BBC, that second investigation is now complete - and indicates that Google did, after all, break UK data protection legislation with its actions.

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has indicated that despite its illegal activities Google "will not face a fine" or other form of punishment. Instead, he's asking the company if it wouldn't mind deleting the captured data "as soon as it is legally cleared to do so."

Whether this will prove a salve for those who found their privacy imperilled by the company's actions remains to be seen.