Google privacy probe ordered in Australia


Google could be investigated by Australian authorities for potentially accessing private data over unencrypted Wi-Fi connections without authorisation.

The search firm has come under fire in various countries, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, for collecting personal information from Wi-Fi networks while taking pictures for its Street View service.

Australia's attorney general has now asked police to investigate Google in the country, according to various reports. The news comes after Stephen Conroy, Australia's communications minister, described Google's collection of data from Wi-Fi connections as "probably the biggest single breach in the history of privacy".

A Google spokesperson told IT PRO: "This was a mistake. We are talking to the appropriate authorities to answer any questions they have."

The company had previously said in a blog post that it had collected the data mistakenly after an engineer wrote a piece of code, which was created for an "experimental Wi-Fi project". This code was then unwittingly included in software used by Google's mobile team when it was collecting "basic Wi-Fi network data".

"We are continuing to reach out to the data protection authorities in all the relevant countries and are working with them to answer their questions and concerns," the Google spokesperson added.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner's Office said it is happy with Google's promise to delete the data as soon as is feasible.

Earlier this month, the search giant's chief executive Eric Schmidt admitted to the FT his firm had "screwed up".

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.