The data on WiFi access points gathered by Google in building its Street View mapping system most likely did not include personal data, the UK Information Commissoner’s Office (ICO) has ruled.
"The information we saw does not include meaningful personal details that could be linked to an identifiable person,” said a statement put out by the ICO. "On the basis of the samples we saw, we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data."
Google is not off the hook completely – other countries information protection authorities have yet to take a view – but it is at least one piece of good news for the search giant which is under significant pressure over the issue.
“As we have only seen samples of the records collected in the UK we recognise that other data protection authorities conducting a detailed analysis of all the payload data collected in their jurisdictions may nevertheless find samples of information which can be linked to identifiable individuals,” the statement continued.
The French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) has already said that the wifi capture could have captured passwords and email addresses from unencrypted WiFi networks it encountered as part of gathering the Street View data.
In the US, the company is facing several class-action lawsuits over its wifi-gathering habits.
Google’s position is that the WiFi data was gathered unintentionally.
"We have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (ie non-password-protected) WiFi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products," the company said in a 14 May blog.