Increase in complaints, inquiries to Privacy Commissioner

An increase in complaints and inquiries to Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff is partly due to information collected by Google.

The commissioner's annual report showed 978 complaints were made in the 2009/10 financial year, an increase on 806 in the previous period.

Inquiries to the commissioner's office were also up, by 500 to 7151, in the 2009/10 year.

That was largely due to Google's actions during the collection of data for Google Street View.

When taking photographs for Street View, Google also collected information about WiFi networks.

It deliberately collected information about the networks themselves, including their names and whether they were secured and signal strength, without telling people.

Google also collected small amounts of information crossing unsecured wireless networks at the time its Street View cars were in range.

The commissioner's office began to investigate in May. The inquiry is not yet complete.

Google said the collection of information from unsecured networks was inadvertent and that it had not used it.

"We are investigating whether Google's actions breached the Privacy Act and how we might prevent this situation from recurring," Ms Shroff said in the annual report.

The matter had also been referred to police because Google's actions could amount to a criminal offence in New Zealand, she said.




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