ICO rumbled over failing to take action against Google
It's finally happened.
After months of people scratching their heads about the spineless actions of the ICO - the body responsible for the enforcement of the Data Protection Act - they've finally been called out by MPs over their handling of Google.
In July, the ICO investigated Google when it was revealed that their Street View Cars had captured data from unsecure WiFi networks. The ICO concluded at that time:
“…we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data. There is also no evidence – as yet – that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment.”
Then last week, Google admitted what sort of information they'd actually captured - it included passwords and whole emails from thousands of computers. So the question was - what the bleeding hell was the ICO playing at? The body didn't even find Google in breach of the law, despite the fact it had clearly collected and held personal information without permission.
Now, the Guardian has reported that Rob Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, spoke to the information commissioner, Christopher Graham, about the issue - and yesterday told an MP's debate about online privacy:
"In the view of the UK information commissioner, who examined the Google computers, there was really nothing to worry about."
"I have subsequently spoken to the information commissioner. His view is that he would have liked to take stronger action against Google, but that his office was constrained by the Data Protection Act 1998," he added.
"Perhaps this is true. But why did he not say so at the time? Indeed, their public announcement in July was all the more surprising given the actions of foreign governments."
Because the data was collected by Google before April - the time at which the ICO was granted powers to fine companies up to £500,000 - the ICO couldn't have financially reprimanded Google. But the fact remains that the body didn't even think Google had done anything wrong at the time. What will Richard Littlejohn say?