Google admits it failed to delete all Street View data

The investigation has been reopened

street view

Google admitted that it's still in possession of "a small portion" of the data its Street View cars collected in 2010 and earlier.

The cars drive around with cameras snapping up photos for Google's Street View application, but it was uncovered earlier this year that the cars were collecting more than just images.

The cars were also "wardriving," collecting data from wi-fi networks that could potentially include private and sensitive information.

Some of that data could still exist, despite Google being ordered to delete it, and the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) plans to examine it as part of a newly reopened investigation into the California company's activities.

Google's bending over backward to cooperate

Google seems determined to cooperate with the ICO's investigation, which was reopened in part when the FCC discovered that, contrary to the company's claims, several Google employees knew of the Street View data collection.

The ICO put Google back in the spotlight last month, and it was suggested mere days afterward that Google wasn't being totally honest about the data it had collected.

Google was originally ordered to delete the payload data from its Street View cars in November 2010, but the search giant's Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleisher wrote to the ICO this week to admit that they had failed to do so.

Coming clean

"Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the UK. Google apologizes for this error," Fleisher wrote.

He said they've been conducting a review by "re-scanning thousands of disks," and that they're "in the process of notifying the relevant authorities" in countries from which they still possess payload data.

"We are prepared to arrange for you to review this data, or to destroy it," he explained. "Google remains committed to working with the ICO on this matter."

For their part, a spokesperson for the ICO said, "The ICO has always been clear that this should never have happened in the first place and the company's failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern."

But given the recent scrutiny they've received, Google has apparently decided that honesty may be the best policy for the time being.

Via The Telegraph