Google cooperating with police in street view probe

Internet giant Google says it will cooperate fully with police as they investigate whether it committed a crime while gathering data for its New Zealand street view operation.

Following a request from the Privacy Commissioner police have confirmed they are investigating Google's data collection operation after reports it collected WiFi information while photographing houses and streets with 3D cameras for its mapping service,

The Crimes Act makes it an offence to intercept data and last month Google acknowledged it had mistakenly collected data from public WiFi networks in more than 30 countries, including New Zealand.

The admission sparked fears Google intercepted personal emails, passwords, personal banking details and even web browsing histories at home addresses.

Police spokesman Jon Neilson said the police national cyber crime centre was investigating the complaint to determine "whether any criminality has been committed".

Google New Zealand spokeswoman Annie Baxter told the Associated Press the company would work with all relevant authorities to answer any questions they might have.

The company has "locked-down" the information while the matter is being investigated.

It was "profoundly sorry" for the mistake and said that data collection 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," she said.

Ms Baxter, Google's publicity manager based in Australia, said the equipment used was bought from a third party and though the software would have recognised encrypted transmissions, that particular data would have been discarded immediately. Encrypted data includes banking and other commercial transaction details.

This was not the first time Google had raised privacy concerns.

In April, a joint letter to Google from a group of international privacy regulators -- including New Zealand -- was sent to Google with concerns about combining their private email service, Google mail with a social networking service called Buzz.

Google's street view project itself, which photographs houses and streets with 3D cameras has also raised privacy concerns.



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