Google says it gathered wireless data by 'mistake'


GOOGLE HAS confirmed that it has been gathering data sent over wireless networks in Irish homes and businesses.

Following a request from the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, all data on Irish networks was destroyed over the weekend.

The process was confirmed by an independent third-party company.

The internet giant has had cars equipped with panoramic cameras travelling around the country for over a year now. They are recording pictures for Street View, a feature in Google Maps which allows web users to view an image of an address on a map.

The Google cars have also been gathering the names and serial numbers of equipment on Wi-Fi networks in homes and businesses. The company uses this data to help establish the exact location of people using Google Maps on their mobile device.

Following a request for more information on what data it was collecting from the German authorities Google revealed last week the cars had been gathering all available data on these networks.

This includes what Google calls the “payload” – any unsecured information that was being sent over the network when the mapping cars passed.

“Quite simply, it was a mistake,” the company said in a blog-post on its website on Friday. The company blamed a failure in internal communications and said none of the data had been used.

A spokesman for Google said all its cars were now off the road. “We have stopped collecting all Wi-Fi data and will review that decision at a future date,” he said.

Gary Davis, assistant data protection commissioner, confirmed that Google had informed a number of European data protection authorities about the issue in a conference call on Friday.

The Irish authorities immediately requested that Google delete the information and strongly recommended that this be verified by a third party.

Google Street View is expected to be launched in Ireland before the end of the year.

A consortium of European data privacy officials last month wrote to Google criticising its approach to privacy when it introduced its Buzz social network.