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ICO opens second Google investigation

Wi-Fi snooping to be reinvestigated following search engine's admission

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has launched another investigation into Google's Wi-Fi snooping activities.

The investigation has been prompted by Google's admission that the inadvertent Wi-Fi snooping collected not only data fragments but entire email messages, website addresses and passwords.

"Earlier this year the ICO visited Google's premises to make a preliminary assessment of the payload data it inadvertently collected while developing Google Street View," an ICO spokesman told the Guardian.

"While the information we saw at the time did not include meaningful personal details that could be linked to an identifiable person, we have continued to liaise with, and await the findings of, the investigations carried out by our international counterparts."

The ICO said that in the light of Google's admission, it would "be making enquires to see whether this information relates to the data inadvertently captured in the UK, before deciding on the necessary course of action, including a consideration of the need to use our enforcement powers".

Google's error only came to light in May this year after the German data protection authority audited the Wi-Fi data collected by Street View cars, which capture real-time photographs of cities across the world for use in Google Maps, the search engine's mapping service.

The ICO initially refused to investigate Google's error, following complaints from Privacy International. However, after the privacy organisation said it was left with no choice but to go to the Metropolitan Police and ask them to investigate, the ICO began looking at the matter for the first time.

See also: Google pushed to name names over Wi-Fi data collection

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