Conroy: Google Wi-Fi spy was 'deliberate'

Conroy: Google Wi-Fi spy was 'deliberate'

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has accused Google of deliberately collecting payload data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has accused Google of deliberately collecting payload data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Last week Google said it had stopped using its Street View cars to collect data after it realised it had been inadvertently collecting data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks over the past four years. Queensland Police said last week that 50 per cent of Queensland Wi-Fi networks it had tested had been unsecured.

"Google have admitted to doing this and claim it was a mistake in the software code, meaning that it was actually quite deliberate, the code was collecting it," Conroy said in Senate Budget Estimates yesterday.

Liberal Senator Mary-Jo Fisher asked the minister for a further explanation.

"The code that the computer program that collects it was designed to collect this information," Conroy said in reply to Fisher.

Fisher then asked whether Conroy disputed the claims that Google said it was inadvertent.

"Yes, I'm saying they wrote a piece of code designed to do it," Conroy replied.

Conroy said it was possible that the Wi-Fi data Google collected had "been the largest privacy breach in the history across western democracies".

Google said it was "surprised" that it had been discussed so thoroughly in Senate Budget Estimates intended to canvas the government's proposed internet filter.

Google said last week that it had discovered it had accumulated about 600 gigabytes of data transmitted over public Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries.

Conroy spent paragraphs slamming Google. The full transcript can be viewed here (PDF) from the bottom of page 115.

Update at 11:18am, 26 May 2010: Added a paragraph with a link to the full transcript.

Topics: Google, Government AU, Networking, Wi-Fi

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  • Hell hath no fury as a minister scorned!

    Is this a real quote:
    "The code that the computer program that collects it was designed to collect this information,"
    ...because it doesn't make sense, similar to most Conroy arguments.

    Google are doing nothing illegal by collecting this publicly available information; there has been no accusations nor proof of misuse.

    How is this possibly a privacy breach? If people leave their wireless networks unsecured, broadcasting to the public, their information is no longer private.

    Once again Conroy's spinning his own spiteful agenda and hiding behind parliamentary privilege to slander a company he bears a grudge with.
  • Conroy is one of our worst Comms ministers yet. And here i was thinking that Mr Alston and Ms Coonan were bad.

    He seems to have a personal vendetta against anyone who stands up against his silly policies, or criticises them in any way. He has shown true inexperience and lack of judgement in the way he has handled those criticisms. This latest outburst against Google only highlights his paranoia even further.

    Perhaps he is afraid of what Google captured from his own WiFi network?
  • This another bit of evidence that Conroy doesnt understand his portfolio.

    The code that collected the data was not written by Google. It was open source code from another project that they used in their application to speed the development. They did not realize that it was collecting the data until there was a request from the EU on what exactly they were collecting. Who is going to notice 600 gigabytes of data spread across months of work all over the globe when you are pulling more data than that a day in photos.

    Also worth noting, the data they captured with the application was VERY VERY tiny. The program connected to each network for an average of 1/5th of a second.
  • Conroy is annoyed because he didn't think of it first, and then legislate that you're not allowed to know he's doing it.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • Seems like Senator Conjob has a bee in his bonnet because Google won't support him and his backward filter. Now he's just looking vindictive and mean
  • I'm pretty disgusted with Conroy, trying to divert peoples attention off his filter by wasting tax payers money and the Senate's time is a much more dishonest act than Google collecting publicly available data.

    Labors lost my vote in the next election thanks mostly to Mr Conroy...
  • You do realize libs have decided to scrap the IT upgrade for schools, the NBN, and the healthcare overhaul... I just hope he gets lynched and they pick a new intelligent Minister for BDE
  • Conjob once more proving he hasn't a clue & desperately needs a smokescreen to hide his ineptitude.
    But what are the alternatives at the next election?
    'Anti everything Labour' Abbott's silence on this topic is deafening & as the alternative
    Catholic PM, is no doubt in favour of this Church's history of censorship as well as his promise to kill the NBN.
  • Conroy is an idiot.
  • Conroy is illiterate, ignorant, ill informed, populist, stupid and inexperienced about his subject matter. The man is an idiot and should be removed from his post immediately. I have never heard of a minister so poorly placed to speak and REPRESENT on matters he has no clue about, nevermind cannot formulate useful and intelligent opinions on who still holds his portfolio. Is Rudd serious about this man or is he just waiting for him to something even MORE stupid so he can drop him. I'm just not sure.
  • Surely, one day, if Conroy grips his head very firmly with both hands and keeps pulling it will come out!
    Help me Obi Wan Kenobi your my only hope.
  • ... He's just mad cos Google realised he was an idiot and moved against his internet-slowing, money-wasting, un-protecting filter >.>
    Honestly, he claimed that google could have stolen our bank account details? does he have ANY idea how wireless networks work AT ALL!

    And we have a choice between this malbrained lunatic, or parties that want the NBN among other revolutionising ideas scrapped...
    Suddenly I feel a lot less patriotic >.