Google hits back at Conroy’s attack

Internet giant Google has hit back at communications minister Stephen Conroy after he slammed the company in a Senate estimates committee on Monday, calling its Street View WiFi blunder one of the biggest privacy breaches in history.

The defense comes as a fierce debate is currently raging across the internet, with users in an uproar about privacy issues regarding Google and social networking giant Facebook.

Google has attacked the meeting itself, saying the focus should have been on the proposed internet filter the Government hopes to introduce during the second half of the year.

“We were surprised to hear more discussion about Google and Facebook than about the actual proposed filter,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

It is the latest incident in the debate between the Government and the global advertising giant. Google has been an outright critic of the Government’s attempts to censors the internet through the filtering system, a program Conroy has been charged with implementing.

While the company has said it will abide by the laws of whatever country it operates in, it has still been an outspoken critic of the filter.

The Government hopes to block certain sites at the ISP level through a blacklist operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

On Monday night, Conroy attacked Google for breaching the personal privacy of Australian citizens by inadvertently collecting data through unsecured WiFi networks while taking pictures for its Street View feature.

“They consider that they are the appropriate people to make the decisions about people’s privacy data, and that they are perfectly entitled to drive the streets and collect as much private information by photographing over fences and collecting data information,” he said.

“This is probably the single greatest breach in the history of privacy,” he added. “This has been worldwide. Google takes the view that they can do anything they want.”

The Street View incident has been major blunder for the internet giant. It admitted last week that when its Street View cars took pictures of residential streets a few years ago, a rogue piece of code within the software used to upload the pictures actually took some data from unsecured WiFi networks.

While the company admitted this problem in a blog post, and to authorities in Germany, it hasn’t stopped regulators from announcing investigations. Already authorities in Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada and here in Australia are investigating to determine whether any regulations have been broken.

The investigations come as social networking giant Facebook is set to introduce new privacy controls tomorrow in response to user protests.


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