Internet search giant Google deliberately harvested information from millions of UK home computers while operating specially equipped cars for its Street View service and the firm’s executives did nothing about it, it has emerged.
The firm is facing an inquiry into claims that they downloaded emails, text messages, photographs and documents from wi-fi networks as they photographed virtually every British road.
It is two years since Google first admitted stealing fragments of personal data, but claimed it was a ‘mistake’.
Now the full scale of its activities has come into light in the wake of accusations of a cover-up, The Daily Mail reports.
According to the paper, US regulators found a senior manager was warned as early as 2007 that the information was being captured as its cars trawled the country but did nothing.
Last month a report by the US media regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revealed that the Google programmer who wrote the Street View software repeatedly warned that it collected personal data, and called for a legal and privacy review.
Yesterday he was named as Marius Milner, 41, a British software engineer from Hove, East Sussex, who now lives in California.
Meanwhile, critics said that the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was doing ‘too little, too late’, and pointed to its earlier report into Street View which concluded that any collection of personal data was ‘inadvertent’.
The slow reaction of the ICO’s to deal with the data theft is in direct contrast to the vigorous efforts of watchdogs in Germany, France and even the Czech Republic, where Google was forced to stop filming for Street View and had to pay heavy fines.