Australian Financial Review 7 May 2012:
Google could face new investigations by the Privacy Commissioner over its harvesting of personal information using Street View cars after a 17-month investigation by US authorities found it wasn’t the act of a “rogue” engineer.
From 2007 to 2010, Google’s specially designed Street View cars travelled the world taking detailed photos, recording wi-fi details and sucking up data carried on open wireless networks.
The report by the Federal Communications Commission found that “Google’s Street View cars collected names, addresses, telephone numbers, URLs, passwords, email, text messages, medical records, video and audio files”. When the snooping was discovered the search giant apologised for the collection and said it was due to a “rogue” code inserted by an engineer without permission.
But the FCC found that management was, in fact, told about the proposal in a series of documents and said Google obstructed its investigation. The company claimed its management didn’t read the proposal.
Authorities in Australia, the UK and Germany are examining the FCC’s report and considering further action. Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim told The Australian Financial Review his department would analyse the FCC report over the next three weeks to see if new investigations were required.
In 2010 Mr Pilgrim’s department found Google guilty of breaching the Privacy Act. But when the issue was referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), it said there was evidence that the breach was “inadvertent” and that there was little chance of a conviction because gathering evidence would be too hard.