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Australian Privacy Commissioner Not Pursuing Google

Australia's Privacy Commissioner has declined to open a second investigation into Google's collection of private data through its Street View cars.

The Google Street View Wi-Fi snooping case continues to churn along, with the Australian Privacy Commissioner, despite a report from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proving it wasn’t the work of one lone engineer, has said he will not launch a second investigation into the incident.

Google admitted in 2010 that Street View cars were collecting more information than intended. The cars were only supposed to collect Wi-Fi access point locations, but also inadvertently captured email and text messages, passwords, histories, and other personal data from unsecured wireless networks as far back as 2007. The FCC report blamed a “rogue” engineer, but also showed that senior management at Google knew about and signed off on the Wi-Fi sniffing project. Google was fined $25,000 for deliberately impeding and delaying the investigation, a charge which Google’s top lawyer vehemently denied in a letter to the FCC, claiming that it was the governmental agency itself which had been stalling, though Google did pay the fine.

When the report was released, Timothy Pilgrim, the Australian Privacy Commissioner, told the Australian Financial Review that his office would be examining the report and would determine whether or not to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police. Today, he told reporters that there would be no new investigation, saying, “I have decided not to open another investigation into Google Street View. In reaching this decision, I have considered the FCC’s report and don’t consider that a new investigation would reveal any information that would change our original finding.”

In 2010, Google was found to have breached the Australian Privacy Act through the collection of Wi-Fi payload data, with the case being referred to the APC. The APC dropped the case, however, after determining that Google’s data collection was “inadvertent,” rather than a deliberate act. Google published an apology to all Australians and conducted a “privacy impact assessment” in response to the commissioner’s findings at the time.

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