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Google still holds your data collected from Street View cars

What happened?

Google admitted it still holds personal data, such as snippets of email addresses and passwords, collected via Wi-Fi by its Street View camera cars in 2010. In November 2010 the Information Commissioner Office (ICO) found Google in breach of the Data Protection Act, but didn't fine it, instead ordering the company to submit to a privacy audit - and to delete the data, which Google said it did.

Earlier this year, the US Federal Communications Commission released its report into Google's actions, and the ICO reopened its investigation, requesting confirmation that the data had indeed been deleted. At the time, Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said that it had.

Now, Google has revealed that "a small portion of payload data" remains on its system, which the ICO noted was in breach of the original settlement deal, saying "the company's failure to secure its deletion as promised is cause for concern". The ICO intends to examine the data before it's finally deleted, and said the revelation would be considered as part of the reopened investigation, but hasn't said when the latest probe will end.

How will it affect you? 

The collected data was never likely to cause anyone trouble, so the fact there remains some dregs in Google's servers isn't a major cause for concern. Indeed, Google has much more data on you sitting on its servers that it obtained legally.

What do we think? 

How many chances does the ICO need to pull its finger out and do something? The watchdog has the power to fine Google up to £500,000, but refuses to take serious action. Even if a fine is ruled over the top for a breach that didn't actually affect anyone, the ICO has failed time and time again to get the full details from Google, repeatedly taking the web giant at its word. No wonder one MP compared the regulator's investigators to the Keystone Cops. While it's doubtful Google knew about this leftover data, it shows certain carelessness. Remember, that's our data it accidentally collected and has forgotten to destroy.

As we continue to move more of our lives online, tough privacy laws are required, but so is a watchdog willing to use its teeth. We look forward to seeing the ICO's response to this latest mishap.