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Google dumps Aussie Wi-Fi data tracking

Wipes StreetView data, takes kit from cars, says 'sorry'

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Google Australia has removed all Wi-Fi equipment from its fleet of Street View cars and has confirmed that it will not be "accidently” collecting any more unencrypted data via the StreetView process.

Last year the Privacy Commissioner was forced to investigate how and why Google had collected unencrypted payload data while it was collating imagery for its Street View service.

Google exhibited a rare mood of repentance in its blog post update of the affair.

“We want to reiterate to Australians that our collection of payload data was a mistake for which we are sincerely sorry,” wrote Alan Eustace, a senior veep, adding that “maintaining people’s trust is crucial to everything we do, and we have to earn that trust every single day.”

The company says it has deleted all the payload data it collected. It has also fulfilled one of the commitments it made to the Commissioner to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), which it has published here, on any further Street View activities in Australia.

Google Australia vows to ensure that StreetView images are not real time, will use automatic technology to blur faces and licence plates before publishing imagery, and provide a “Report a problem” tool which allows users to request further blurring or removal of any image or "let us know if our detectors miss something."

Internally, the company hired a new director of privacy across both engineering and product management, Alma Whitten, last October.

The role was created to build effective privacy controls into Google’s products and internal practices. As a consequence, the new privacy-savvy Google has enhanced its privacy training program for employees, and now requires every engineering project leader to maintain a ‘privacy design document’ which records how user data is handled, for every project. ®

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