Google Wi-Fi breach ‘inadvertent’, say police


The Australian Federal Police has dropped any case against Google over its high-profile blunder in collecting Wi-Fi data with its Street View cars, noting the data collection may have been “inadvertent” rather than a deliberate privacy breach.

The Federal Government had referred the matter to the AFP on 3 June this year, after the revelation of the data collection in a number of countries made international headlines. At the time, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy referred to the incident as possibly the single greatest breach in the history of privacy in Western democracies.

However Google has since publicly apologised, committed to destroying the data, and cooperated with the Federal Privacy Commissioner on the issue.

In a statement issued late last week, the AFP stated that it had engaged external senior counsel (legal assistance) to assist in the assessment of Google’s action. Advice provided by that party concluded that the incident may have constituted a breach of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act. However, the AFP decided not to take the case further.

“Evidence exists to suggest that the potential breach of the TIA by Google was inadvertent,” the agency said in a statement. “Coupled with the difficulty of gathering sufficient evidence required for an examination of potential breaches, the AFP has concluded that it would not be an efficient and effective use of the AFP’s resources to pursue this matter any further.”

“The likelihood of a successful criminal prosecution in this matter is considered to be low.”

The AFP pointed out that law enforcement agencies had made “comparable conclusions” in similar situations internationally — resolving them within their national privacy regimes. And the AFP noted it was satisfied with Google’s undertakings to the Australian Privacy Commissioner.

The agency also made one last point. It recommended users take advantage of the Federal Government’s Stay Smart Online cyber security information site and secure their wireless networks to enhance internet security.

Image credit: mrkathika, Creative Commons


  1. So Conroy jumped the gun and made misguided comments on a case before it had proceeded, I mean it’s not like he’s made prejudging comments before like for example with the iiNet case. Hang on a second …

  2. If you run around screaming in every direction – don’t get upset if someone records you.

  3. How do you “inadvertantly” capture AND STORE wifi information?! – No mistake by Conroy…

    Rather lacking the nerve to take Google on in court and the media.

    • That wasn’t what Conroy said, what he said was this was “possibly the single greatest breach in the history of privacy in Western democracies”.

      The AFP, ie.the people investigating the complaint, have determined this is not an issue worth pursueing. And according the article international policing agencies are doing the exact same thing.

      Conroy should learn to keep his mouth shut on legal issues until the case has been resolved.

  4. The TJX hack where 130 million credit card numbers were stolen does somehow seem to be a slightly more serious privacy breach.

    Looks like “Global War Driving” appears not to be a problem. Bring out the cantennas!

  5. 3 June this year hasn’t even happened yet.

    Why does no one proof read the internet news?

Comments are closed.