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Australia Launches Google Street View Probe

June 7, 2010

A police investigation has been ordered on Internet search giant Google by the Australian government over alleged privacy violations, Attorney General Robert McClelland said Sunday.

Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy accused the company last month of committing the “single greatest breach in the history of privacy” by collecting private wireless data while taking pictures for its Street View mapping service.

Australia has become at least the second country to launch a probe into the matter. The “Street View” service has recently been criticized in many countries, charging that Google had breached privacy by collecting personal data over Wi-Fi networks. Google has admitted to the accidental breach of privacy, and apologized, saying it was an error. Google also said on Sunday it would cooperate with the Australian police investigation.

The investigation comes after citizens had made complaints about activities of Google employees while taking photographs for Google Maps. McClelland said the government asked the Australian Federal Police to probe the company after receiving numerous complaints.

“Obviously I won’t pre-empt the outcome of that investigation but they relate in substantial part to possible breaches of the Telecommunications Interception Act, which prevents people accessing electronic information other than for authorized purposes,” McClelland told AFP.

Whether any charges are filed is up to the police, but the government felt “there were issues of substance that required police investigation,” McClelland said.

A police spokeswoman confirmed a referral had been received.

Australian law prohibits people from accessing electronic communications for unauthorized intentions.

Google has led criticism of Australia’s planned Internet filter, warning it could damage the nation’s reputation as a liberal democracy and set a dangerous global precedent.

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