Canada’s privacy watchdog satisfied with Google

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s privacy watchdog is satisfied that Google is taking steps to ensure it does not breach privacy laws, after inadvertently collecting personal information while taking photographs of Canadian streets.

“Google appears to be well on the way to resolving serious shortcomings in the way in which it addresses privacy issues,” Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said on Monday.

But the case is not closed for the Internet search company, which must hire independent auditors and report back in a year.

Google found itself in the cross-hairs of privacy officials in several countries last year after admitting that cars used to take images for its Street View mapping service were also collecting personal information from unsecured home wireless networks as they drove by.

Google has agreed to improve privacy training, assess and track projects that collect, use or store personal information, hold engineers and managers responsible for breaches and assign internal auditors.

Stoddart said that, as an innovative company that pushes the limits of social standards, Google has “an added responsibility to ensure that privacy protection gets the attention it deserves.”

The commissioner said in October that Google had collected complete e-mails, e-mail addresses, user names and passwords, names, home telephone numbers and addresses, and even the names of people suffering from certain medical conditions.

The investigation concluded the breach was largely due to Google’s lack of proper privacy policies and procedures.

Google has begun to delete the data collected in Canada, a process complicated by U.S. and Canadian regulations. It said the data will be secured and not used until it can be destroyed.

The watchdog has requested the company undergo an independent, third-party audit of its privacy policies and will check in on Google next year. (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Rob Wilson)