Australia Opens a Privacy Case Against Google

Australian police are to investigate if Google's Street View service has breached local telecommunications privacy laws, the attorney general Robert McClelland has announced.

The investigation follows public complaints after it was revealed that Google's vehicles collecting images for its Street View service were also equipped to collect information from Wi-Fi networks.

Police will focus on whether the company breached the country's telecommunications interceptions Act, which prevents people accessing electronic communications other than for authorised purposes, according to Australian reports.

"This was a mistake. We are talking to the appropriate authorities to answer any questions they have," Google said in a statement on the Australian case.

The Australian criminal investigation comes amid increasing complaints from countries around the world that Google does not take privacy seriously enough.

German authorities are considering a similar investigation after they found that Google's Street View vehicles had been collecting data from public Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries.

Google insists privacy is a concern and claims that the information was collected unintentionally after experimental code was included by mistake in software used by the Street View vehicles.

Google has agreed to share all Wi-Fi information gathered first with authorities in Germany, France and Spain.

Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive, has said he wants to be transparent about blunders and has promised to publish the results of an external audit into the practice of collecting information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

The firm will also publish the results of an internal review of all Google's privacy practices that is taking place alongside an investigation of the software engineer responsible for the Wi-Fi data sniffing code that Google now says was a "clear violation" of company rules.

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