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Google avoids UK fine over Street View snooping

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has decided not to fine Google as it did not cause enough harm with its Wi-Fi snooping while mapping areas for Street View.

Google faced fines as high as £500,000 over the privacy invasion caused when it inadvertent collected of passwords and other sensitive information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in 2009 and 2010.

The case was closed by the ICO previously when Google claimed it had destroyed all the data. This turned out not to be true, prompting Stephen Eckersley to re-open the investigation. He issued a legally-binding enforcement notice pertaining to the deletion of the remaining data.

The decision not to fine Google has been met with criticism from privacy advocates like Big Brother Watch, which expressed concern that this could set a precedent for the illegal collection of data by companies.

The UK data authority's action is also in stark contrast to a decision made by the US Federal Communications Commission, which fined Google $7 million (£4.5 million).

“We cooperated fully with the ICO throughout its investigation, and having received its order this morning we are proceeding with our plan to delete the data,” a Google spokesperson said, according to The Telegraph.

“We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn't use it or even look at it.”

The ICO is also investigating changes made by Google to its privacy policy, which sparked outrage throughout Europe. Several countries, including France, have threatened fines if the company does not improve its approach to privacy.