Conroy attacks Google: full Senate transcript

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Conroy attacks Google: full Senate transcript

Minister flays advertising giant for breaches of public trust.

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Australia's Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy took his bitter spat with the world's biggest search and advertising company to a new level this week when he chronicled Google's approach to breaches of public trust.

Responding to a question from SA LIberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher, Conroy accused Google of deliberately sniffing private information from householders and businesses as it collected Street View data and of taking a cavalier approach to privacy around the world.

He mocked as "absurd" claims by the company's chief executive officer Eric Schmidt about its social media site Buzz that "people thought that somehow we were publishing their email addresses and private information, which was not true" when it was so.

To a long list of perceived breaches of confidence, WA Greens senator Scott Ludlam said Senator Conroy was "starting to sound really personal".

Google and the minister are locked in a battle over a proposed Federal Government internet filter that would censor content the Commonwealth and its offices deemed objectionable. Observers viewed the minister's speech as a shot at Google for defying the Government.

"They [Google] consider themselves to be above Government," Senator Conroy told the committee. "They consider that they are the appropriate people to make the decisions about people's privacy data."

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Earlier he said that Google was motivated by only profit and was keen to exercise its own censorship when it suited it.

"This is a company that says 'do no evil', but tries to pretend that it is not motivated by profit and that it knows best and 'you can trust us' when it comes to privacy," he said

"Unfortunately there are no safeguards. You are dealing with company policy. 

"When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, 'Trust us.' They state on the website, 'Trust us'."

But when pressed by his SA sparring partner Senator Fisher about why - given the Minister's view that the company had acted illegitimately - that he wasn't referring the matter for investigation, Senator Conroy backed down.

The Minister denied Senator Fisher's accusation that he was "hiding behind [Privacy Commissioner] Karen Curtis".

"What I said was that Germany has described it as indictable," Senator Conroy said.

"I did not say that we had.

"Let me be very clear about this. I did not say we had."

A Google spokesman said yesterday the company was "surprised" by the minister's statements because they focused on Google and Facebook rather than the filter.

Flick to page two for the full Senate estimates committee transcript of the exchange with Senator Conroy.

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