Timeline: Google Street View scandal
We look back at the Google Street View scandal's history, right up to the ICO investigation's conclusion.
This week the UK’s privacy watchdog concluded its investigation into the Google Street View scandal, when the search giant collected personal details during its mapping operation.
In this country it is the end of what Google will consider a forgettable saga, but the company still faces cases across the world.
But where did it all start? And where did it all go wrong? IT PRO takes a look back at the history of this intriguing scandal.
The Street View service was launched across 25 cities in the UK, amid privacy concerns.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) ruled it was not a threat to personal privacy and allowed it to continue. This would not be the first time the ICO would OK Google actions.
Google Street View went live across the UK, covering nearly all of the country’s roads.
The Street View case burst into life in May when a fleet of Google cars were found to be soaking up data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks in as many as 30 countries during its rounds in 2006.
Google admitted it had taken payload data but had done so by accident. It then insisted the data was not used by the company and said it had contacted the relevant authorities in each country.
Google then missed a deadline for submitting data to German regulators as the storm surrounding the case began to intensify.
In an interview with the Financial Times, chief executive (CEO) Eric Schmidt admitted the firm had “screwed up” by taking the data. He said Google would be handing over data to German, French, Italian and Spanish regulators, after the UK’s information commissioner said he was happy with Google's promise to delete the data as soon as was reasonably possible.
In June, the firm also tried to explain how the data had been taken. Google said an engineer had written a piece of code in 2006 for an “experimental Wi-Fi project.” This was then unwittingly employed in software used by the organisation’s mobile team when it was collecting “basic Wi-Fi network data” a year later. Basically, Google reiterated it was a mistake.
Privacy International came out and slammed Google for what happened, suggesting the company intentionally broke the law when collecting the Wi-Fi data.
In the same week Google released an independent report on the software involved in taking the information, showing Google had collected and stored payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. The search giant did not confirm what kind of data was taken, as it later would.
Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal announced his office would lead the biggest investigation to date into the case, labeling the actions as a “deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy.”