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UK Regulator Still Reviewing Google Wi-Fi Sampling

The U.K.'s data protection agency is still reviewing Google's collection of Wi-Fi data as part of its Street View program but said it does not appear to have jeopardized people's personal information.

ICO officials visited Google last month and analyzed some of the data, which Google has said included snippets from unencrypted Wi-Fi routers, such as SSID (Service Set Identifier) information and MAC (Media Access Control) addresses.

"The information that we saw does not include meaningful personal details that could be linked to an identifiable person," the agency said in a statement.

The ICO said it does not have the power to enforce the law covering the interception of communications, which falls under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), "which is the main law Google Street View is being accused of having broken." The act outlines the rules under which authorities can conduct covert surveillance, among others.

Google said the data collection occurred while vehicles were collecting imagery for Street View, its photo mapping Web application. The company said the Wi-Fi sampling had been a mistake and stopped it.

The program came to light after the Hamburg Data Protection Authority requested an audit of the program. That agency along with Hamburg's prosecutor's office continues to investigate. Other countries such as the U.S., Spain, France and Italy also launched inquiries after the program was revealed.

The ICO said it only saw samples of the data that Google collected. Other data protection agencies may find samples of information that could be linked to individuals but "we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data," the ICO said.

"We remain vigilant and will be reviewing our own findings together with the relevant findings and evidence from our international counterparts' investigations," the ICO said in a statement. "In light of this we will decide what, if any further action to take. The case has not been closed."

The U.K.'s Ministry of Justice referred questions to the Home Office. A Home Office spokesman said Thursday that no one has complained about either Google imagery collection or the Wi-Fi sampling and no case had been brought against the company in the U.K.

On Tuesday, South Korean police raided Google offices and said in a statement launching an investigation into unauthorized data collection and illegal wiretapping related to Street View.

Earlier this month, Google said it would resume taking photographs in the U.K. for Street View and last month also resumed the program in Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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