The Information Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom announced last week that it would be re-opening its inquiry of Google and its payload data-collecting Street View cars. In a letter sent to Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, Peter Fleischer, ICO Head of Enforcement Steve Eckersley cited recent revelations that arose from the Federal Communication Commission’s investigation of the Street View cars’ spying habits as grounds to revisit the case.
Today, The Telegraph has obtained and published in full a copy of Fleischer’s reply to the ICO and, unsurprising, Google resorts to the most commonly accepted form of apology in our modern era: the non-apology.
Fleischer’s lengthy missive to the ICO begins with how “profoundly sorry” the company was about the payload data collection then reminisced about Google’s cooperation with the ICO. However, before individually addressing each of Eckersley’s questions, Fleischer added, “Google is surprised that the ICO has decided to re-open its investigation into this matter,” and proceeded to redirect the ICO with an undue lesson in data storage as well as adherence to the story that Google didn’t know nothin’ about no Street View spying before 2010.
Fleischer continues to attest that Google doesn’t actually know what is included in the collected data apart from what it supplied the ICO with in 2010 because it hasn’t looked at it. Whether you believe that or not is up to you, but given Google’s bloodlust for consumer information, believing that Google wouldn’t access that data is akin to expecting that a rabid pack of cheetahs wouldn’t run down a zebra coated in bacon grease.
However, Google did comply with the ICO’s request to supply a copy of the original software design with the reply. Fleischer also included “certificates of destruction in respect of payload data collected in the UK” and closed the letter with the suggestion that the ICO should have no other questions for Google.
That last part is a dry pill to swallow. I understand that this is legal-speak politesse, leading an investigator into agreeing that, yes, there is nothing more to see here, but that is ingenuine. In all truth, there may be nothing left to see here but it’s hard to take Google at its word because the company has become a masterful escape artist when it comes to directly answering questions. With that history of obfuscation never far behind, Google should leave it to the ICO to decide when the investigation is over.