The Privacy Commissioner has today asked police to
investigate Google's gathering of personal wireless internet
data during its street view operation in New Zealand.
The commission and police met today to discuss Google's
possible breach of the Crimes Act after concerns were
expressed about reports it collected WiFi information while
photographing houses and streets with 3D cameras for its
Google has admitted collecting public WiFi data in more than
30 countries though it was not known what kind of information
had been collected. The company has "locked-down" the
information while the matter is being investigated.
The privacy scandal has sparked fears that Google might have
intercepted personal banking details and could link people's
internet behaviour to home addresses.
Assistant Privacy Commissioner Katrine Evans, in a statement,
said that following today's meeting the commission and police
had agreed the matter would now be formally referred to
"So that they can consider whether Google has committed a
criminal offence by collecting payload data from WiFi
networks during its street view filming."
The commission would continue to consider the privacy angles
and would not comment further, she said.
Taylor Shaw privacy specialist Kathryn Dalziel said it would
be a breach of the Crimes Act if Google was found to have
intercepted any communication.
"This will create an interesting issue in terms of
international law, since the company is based outside of New
Ms Dalziel said it would be up to police to investigate
whether a crime had been committed.
A Google New Zealand spokesperson said the company was
"profoundly sorry" for the mistake and that the collection of
data would have been limited by the fact that the Google cars
"were on the move".
Internet users would have needed to be using their network as
a car passed their house.
"Our in-car WiFi equipment automatically changes channels
five times a second. That said, it's possible that the
fragments of data we collected could contain entire emails or
other content if a user broadcast personal information over
an open network at that moment."