Privacy watchdog slaps Google for WiFi breach

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Privacy watchdog slaps Google for WiFi breach

Google provides written undertakings to Privacy Commissioner.

Google has breached the Australian Privacy Act after collecting unsecured WiFi payload data with its Street View vehicles in the last four years.

Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis announced her verdict today, after an investigation that has spanned almost two months.

"On the information available, I am satisfied that any collection of personal information would have breached the Australian Privacy Act," she said.

"Collecting personal information in these circumstances is a very serious matter. Australians should reasonably expect that private communications remain private."

In accordance with the Privacy Act, Curtis was unable to impose legal penalties on Google as she had initiated the investigation.

Google responded with written undertakings to work with the Privacy Commissioner on its Street View data collection activities and other product launches over the next three years.

The search giant promised to conduct Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) on any new Street View data collection activities in Australia and provide a copy of these to Curtis' office.

It also promised to regularly consult with the Privacy Commissioner about any personal data collection activities arising from future product launches, and publish an apology on its official Australian blog.

Accordingly, the blog was updated at 1.55pm today, with Google's Senior VP of Engineering and Research Alan Eustace posting:

"We have committed to working even more closely with them [the Privacy Commissioner] going forward on the privacy implications of our product launches.

"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.

Curtis acknowledged the Google's corporation in her investigation, noting that the undertakings would "ensure Google's future products have privacy protections built in rather than bolted on".

The undertakings would be reviewed following any reforms to the Privacy Act, she said.

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