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Australian Privacy Commissioner obtains privacy undertakings from Google
Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis has concluded her investigation into Google's collection of unsecured WiFi payload data in Australia using Street View vehicles.
"On the information available I am satisfied that any collection of personal information would have breached the Australian Privacy Act.
"Collecting personal information in these circumstances is a very serious matter. Australians should reasonably expect that private communications remain private.
"In response to our investigation, Google has provided me with written undertakings that it will:
- Publish an apology to Australians in Google's official Australian blog (www.google-au.blogspot.com) for its collection of unsecured WiFi 'payload' data.
- Undertake to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) on any new Street View data collection activities in Australia that include personal information.
- Provide a copy of these PIAs to my Office.
- Regularly consult with the Australian Privacy Commissioner about personal data collection activities arising from significant product launches in Australia.
"These steps will ensure Google's future products have privacy protections built in rather than bolted on. Google's undertakings will last for three years. These undertakings will be reviewed following any reforms to the Privacy Act.
"Under the current Privacy Act, I am unable to impose a sanction on an organisation when I have initiated the investigation. My role is to work with the organisation to ensure ongoing compliance and best privacy practice.
"This was an issue identified by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into Australian privacy laws. The ALRC recommended that the enforcement regime be strengthened. My Office supports these recommendations, and the Australian Government has announced its intention to adopt them.
"Other privacy authorities and law enforcement agencies may still be investigating the collection of WiFi 'payload' data by Google. In view of those ongoing investigations I do not propose to comment in more detail.
"I would like to thank my international counterparts in New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong, who worked with my Office in examining this matter.
"I also acknowledge the cooperation offered by Google throughout my investigation.
"My Office has produced a Guide to assist organisations undertake PIAs. The Guide is available at: http://www.privacy.gov.au/materials/types/download/9509/6590.