Embarrassing is beginning to not be enough to describe the entire Street View WiFi mess. It's embarrassing that it happened in the first place. It's embarrassing that Google's supposedly best and brightest were unaware that their cars had been capturing payload WiFi data for years.
It's embarrassing that no one actually knew how the software worked, except for the one who created it in the first place, though it's likely he had no idea of how the software was used in practice.
But failing to delete the payload data after authorities let Google off the hook quite easily in several countries isn't embarrassing. It's incompetence of the crassest level and it may very well be illegal.
Google is once again admitting that the data it said it had deleted hasn't actually been deleted. It says this is an error. It first realized and admitted the "error" last week when dealing with data from the UK. That data was supposed to have been destroyed almost two years ago.
But when the UK Commissioner's Office decided to re-open its investigation, after more details about the internal incompetence at Google were made public when the FCC investigation was closed, Google revealed
that not all of the data was deleted. Now it's telling the French privacy watchdog, CNIL, that some data from France has also survived
Somehow, some bits and pieces survived. Apparently, these bits and pieces were discovered when Google did a thorough review of all stored Street View drives. For some reason, this review happened in 2012, two years after it revealed the mishap.
Google has been apprehensive of doing anything with the data it found it collected. No one at Google has even looked at it, it seems. Some third-party auditors and officials have seen some of the data.
But this reluctance to dig deeper, understandable on some level as Google wanted to put it all behind it, and the urge to move past as soon as possible managed to make the company look even worse than before, if it was even possible.
"Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles. Google apologizes for this error. Google would now like to delete the remaining data," Google said.
But neither the ICO nor CNIL are allowing that and are both requesting that Google hand over any data that it may still have. It's unlikely that there's much data left, there wasn't that much to begin with, certainly not as much as you'd expect from a program that has scoured many corners of the world. And it's even more unlikely that there is something too damning in there.
But Google keeps on making itself look more and more incompetent. Or, if you prefer the conspiracy theory angle, it's looking more and more evil. Though, if it were truly evil, it would probably not get caught doing some of the embarrassing things it has admitted doing.