10 October 2012
Google has now said that it appears it did not destroy all the information collected from unsecured WiFi networks during its Street View filming in New Zealand. In recent checks, it has found one disk that may contain New Zealand and Australian information, along with disks relating to other countries. These had been missed when Google responded to the original privacy investigations.
The Privacy Commissioner's office has told Google to destroy the disk.
Google had earlier informed the Privacy Commissioner that all the 'payload' information - that is, contents of communications crossing the WiFi networks - had been securely destroyed. The destruction was verified by an independent agency.
"It's very disappointing that this disk could be overlooked," said Assistant Commissioner Katrine Evans. "Collecting the information in the first place was a major breach of privacy, and we made it plain as part of our original investigation that all the information should be destroyed".
"Fortunately, it appears very unlikely that the information on the disk has been accessed or used in any way. Google is willing to destroy the disk. It has also apologised for its mistake. We sincerely hope that this will be an end to what has been a long-running saga."
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View our earlier media release "Google agrees to protect privacy better" which includes a copy of the report of the Privacy Commissioner on Google's collection of Wifi information during Street View filming.
Notes for editors: timeline of the investigations
May 2010: News breaks that Google Street View cars had collected WiFi information, including segments of communications crossing unsecured WiFi networks.
December 2010: Privacy Commissioner concludes investigation, finding Google in breach of NZ privacy law. Google provides undertakings, including undertaking to destroy the payload information.
March 2011: Google verifies that payload information destroyed, supported by independent report.
End of July 2012: Google notifies several privacy regulators that a check had unearthed the fact that it still had payload information from WiFi networks. Privacy Commissioner immediately asks Google to check whether it still held any New Zealand payload information.
October 2012: Google notifies NZ Commissioner that it has located one disk that may contain NZ and Australian payload information.