Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Commissioner satisfied with Google after breach of privacy laws

Cars equiped with special cameras, used to photograph whole streets, can be seen on the Google street view stand at the world's biggest high-tech fair, the CeBIT on March 3, 2010 in the northern German city of Hanover.


The privacy commissioner is satisfied with the steps Google took after an investigation found the search engine broke Canada's privacy laws.

But Jennifer Stoddart says her office will still keep tabs on Google.

"Google appears to be well on the way to resolving serious shortcomings in the way in which it addresses privacy issues," she said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

"However, given the significance of the problems we found during our investigation, we will continue to monitor how Google implements our recommendations."

An investigation by Stoddart's office found the search engine broke Canadian privacy laws when it accidentally collected personal information from unsecured wireless networks while assembling its Street View mapping service.

The probe found complete emails, addresses, user names and passwords. Even a list that provided the names of people suffering from certain medical conditions was collected.

The investigation concluded that the incident was largely a result of Google's lack of proper privacy policies and procedures.

Thousands of Canadians were likely affected, the investigation found, by what amounted to an error on the part of an engineer.

The code the engineer wrote to map wireless Internet signals also allowed for the capture of communications over unencrypted networks. He never submitted it for review to Google's lawyers, so no one was aware of the potential for problems.

Stoddart's office has asked Google to hire an independent auditor to review its privacy programs within a year and share the results with her.

Story continues below advertisement

The privacy commissioner asked Google to respond to her findings by February, which the company did. Actions taken by the search engine include:

  • Significantly boosting privacy and security training for all employees;
  • Putting in place a system to track all projects that gather or use personal information, while holding managers and engineers responsible for those projects;
  • Assigning an internal team to conduct periodic audits on software privacy.

Google also the privacy commissioner it has started to delete the Canadian data it collected.

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to