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Google Apologizes to Australians For Its WiFi Data Collection By StreetView Cars

In July, Karen Curtis, the Australian Privacy Commissioner announced the conclusion of her office's investigation into the collection of consumer WiFi data in Australia by Google Street View cars:

"... I am satisfied that any collection of personal information would have breached the Australian Privacy Act... Collecting personal information in these circumstances is a very serious matter. Australians should reasonably expect that private communications remain private."

Other Australian government agencies are still investigating the data collection. The Commissioner wants to ensure that this type of personal data collection does not happen again. So, Google has agreed with the Commissioner's request to comply in four ways to the investigation:

  • Perform a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) on future Street View data collection activities in Australia,
  • Provide a copy of these PIAs to the Commissioner's office,
  • Consult regularly with the Commissioner about personal data collection activities with future Google product launches in Australia, and
  • Publish an apology to Australians in the official Google Australia blog

Portions of the apology in the Google Australia blog:

"We're sorry. A couple of years ago, Google started collecting WiFi network information via our Street View cars to improve location-based services like search and maps. In May, we announced that we had also mistakenly been collecting publicly broadcast payload data (information sent over the network)... and as soon as we discovered our error, we announced that we would stop collecting all WiFi data via our Street View vehicles and removed all WiFi reception equipment from them... In Australia, we have been working with the Privacy Commissioner to support her investigation into what happened... We want to reiterate to Australians that this was a mistake for which we are sincerely sorry. Maintaining people’s trust is crucial to everything we do and we have to earn that trust every single day. We are acutely aware that we failed badly here."

Good for Australians. Where is the apology for everyone else? The Europe Google blog and official Google blog both announced only a collection policy change. Apologies only happen when a government demands it?


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