Google Street View 'single biggest breach of privacy in history'
25 May 2010
The Australian communications minister has labelled internet search giant Google "creepy" and said that the company's collection of wireless network data through its Street View service was the single biggest breach of privacy in history.
Earlier this month, Google announced it had discovered that the roving cars it uses to create its online mapping services were inadvertently gathering data on people's website use over unsecured wireless networks.
Google apologised, but the admission caused alarm across the globe.
Germany's consumer protection said that Google had acted "illegally" and failed to show respect for the privacy of its citizens. The UK Information Commissioner has asked Google to delete information gathered on British citizens as soon as possible.
Now Stephen Conroy, Australia's minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, has told a senate committee that Google deliberately decided to collect the private information.
Mr Conroy, whose plan to implement an internet filter in Australia has been strongly criticised by Google, blamed the company's CEO Eric Schmidt.
"I think the approach taken by Mr Schmidt is a bit creepy frankly," Mr Conroy said.
"When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, 'trust us'. That is what they actually state on their website: 'Trust us'."
Mr Conroy said that the search engine considered itself above government.
"They consider that they are the appropriate people to make the decisions about people's privacy data and that they are perfectly entitled to drive the streets and collect as much private information by photographing over fences and collecting data information," he said.
He said claims by Google that it collected the data by mistake were wrong and that the company deliberately wrote a computer code designed to gather the information.
Google has dismissed the claims.
In a statement a spokesman for the company said that Google was surprised to hear criticism about its privacy record in a hearing that was supposed to be focused on the proposed internet filters.