Google Wi-Fi intercept triggers Aussie police probe

Australian police open investigation into Google Street View snafu that collected private data from Wi-Fi networks while snapping photos for mapping service.

Australia has called in the police to determine whether Google violated privacy laws by capturing data from private Wi-Fi networks though its Street View service.

At a forum on Internet security on Sunday, Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland told reporters that the matter was handed over to the police following a string of complaints from the public. Specifically, the Australian Federal Police are looking into possible violations of the country's Telecommunications Interception Act, which "prevents people from accessing electronic communications other than for authorized purposes," according to McClelland.

Google asaid Sunday that it will cooperate with the Australian police probe, according to Reuters. But the company may face a fight ahead, at least with some members of the government. Stephen Conroy, Australia's minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, has gone so far as to accuse Google of purposely capturing the Wi-Fi data and has rather dramatically called this possibly "the largest privacy breach in history across Western democracies."

The uproar begin around the middle of May after Google admitted that it had inadvertantly been collecting certain private data from Wi-Fi networks as part of its Street View mapping service. The mistake had apparently gone unnoticed for the past several years and has triggered concerns and aroused suspicion in several countries, including the United States, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Australia.

Since the revelation, the search giant has been hit by federal investigations and class-action lawsuits in the U.S. and Europe. On its end, Google has promised to cooperate with the investigations by handing over the data it collected and conducting its own review to determine how this problem could have occurred and gone undetected for so long.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.


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