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ICO criticises Google over privacy efforts

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has criticised Google for failing to do more to protect the privacy of Internet users, in whose data the advertising firm sees an income stream.

In a report today the ICO said Google had made some improvements to its privacy policies, but the corporation could do more.

"Google now have (sic) a number of privacy processes and initiatives at different stages of maturity as well as a number of functions delivering separate privacy related training," the report notes. "The ownership and delivery of Google’s privacy processes and training should be reviewed to ensure they have a coordinated and targeted approach and to identify any possible synergies to reduce the risk of inconsistencies and gaps", it notes, in the section marked "Areas for Improvement"

The ICO found Google had "made improvements to their internal privacy structure, privacy training and awareness and privacy reviews. The audit provided reasonable assurance that these changes reduce, but do not eliminate, the risk of an incident similar to the mistaken collection of payload data by Google Street View vehicles occurring again."

The ICO previously accepted Google's interception of data from unknowing users of unencrypted Wi-FI networks all around the country had been "mistaken".

"I'm satisfied that Google has made good progress in improving its privacy procedures following the undertaking they signed with me last year. All of the commitments they gave us have been progressed and the company have also accepted the findings of our audit report where we've asked them to go even further," said Information Commissioner Christopher Graham as he reported the end of the audit and recommended that Google carry on its good work.

"The ICO's Google audit (PDF) is not a rubber stamp for the company's data protection policies. The company needs to ensure its work in this area continues to evolve alongside new products and technologies. Google will not be filed and forgotten by the ICO," he promised.