The Google WiSpy scandal, as some have wittily dubbed it, doesn't stay dead for long. Just when Google thinks it's gotten away with it, the issue rears its ugly head again.
Just as the FCC concluded its investigation, in which it found that Google may not have been the most responsible or the most forthcoming company, but still didn't do anything illegal, others suddenly realize that they haven't been doing their jobs very well, by letting Google off the hook so easily.
That's the case in the UK where the ICO, the Information Commissioner's Office, which initially signed off on Google destroying the bits and pieces of information it gathered from open networks, is now outraged that Google held out on some info
. Even though it was the ICO's job to get to that information in the first place.
Google has now responded to the renewed investigation efforts in a letter addressed to the ICO. In the letter, Google tries to answer some of the new accusations that the ICO made, based on the FCC report.
Google says that the data it showed to the ICO was not "pre-prepared." The company goes into detail into the steps it took to get the data from the drives it was stored on and into a form that could be read by a human.
All it did was convert the raw binary data into text. Where the binary data represented actual text, that became readable, otherwise it was just gibberish.
The ICO complained that it was unable to find any emails, passwords, URLs and any other such data that the FCC and others found among the data Google captured with its Street View cars. As such, it concluded that Google must have pre-prepared the data so keep out such damning evidence.
Another explanation, a more likely one perhaps, is that the ICO simply failed to do its job and treated the matter superficially. Or perhaps the people it sent to analyze the data were just that incompetent.
Google also rejects the accusation that people at the company knew about the data capture. It says that, as the FCC investigation found, some employees may have been in the position to realize that payload data was being captured. But none of those employees did realize this and all found out about it when Google revealed the results of its own investigation in 2010.
Google then went on to answer the seven questions the ICO had in its most recent letter, dated June 11th. There's not much new information in there, if any, everything has been revealed already, though Google is providing clearer answers than it did before, in some cases.
One interesting tidbit of information, revealed by the initial ICO investigation, should put in perspective just how out of proportion this whole thing has been. The ICO estimated that, out of the 700GB of data on the hard drive from a Street View car, 0.0131 percent was WiFi data, the rest being Street View images.
Of the WiFi data, just some 1.5 percent was payload data, the rest being the data Google intended to capture, the ID's of the WiFi networks. What's more, only a tiny portion of the payload data contained any full information, i.e. complete emails, visited URLs, passwords and so on. You can read the full Google response here