The representative body for Australia's internet industry has criticised Communications Minister Stephen Conroy for his comments earlier this week against search giant Google, saying it was "very disappointed" in the Labor politician.
"Unwarranted personal attacks do not advance the Australian Digital Economy," Bruce Linn, chairman of the Internet Industry Association (IIA), said in a statement issued today under the headline "More policy less personal attacks, please minister". A spokesperson for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's office declined to comment.
Earlier this week in a Senate Estimates Committee hearing, under sustained questioning by the opposition, Conroy had accused Google chief executive Eric Schmidt of falsehood in statements the executive had made about privacy breaches in its Buzz social networking tool. You can read the transcript here (PDF).
"Frankly, I think the approach taken by Mr Schmidt is a bit creepy," Conroy said later on, referring to a sarcastic statement Schmidt had appeared to make about governments being in charge of the degree of information that Google held.
The comments come as Google is grappling with governments around the globe in controversy created by what the search giant says was its inadvertent collection of information transmitted over Wi-Fi connections in many countries as its Street View cars traversed populated areas. Conroy described the potential privacy breach as possibly one of the worst ever seen. Google has vowed to delete the data safely.
Linn questioned how Conroy's comments advanced the digital economy — part of the minister's portfolio. "What message does it send to internet users?" he added.
"The IIA would have preferred the minister to address the range of important questions raised about the government's proposals for mandatory internet filtering, proposals that will affect every internet user and internet service provider (ISP) in Australia," the IIA statement said.
"The IIA welcomes a reasoned debate on privacy and cybersecurity on the internet, as fundamental enablers of the Digital Economy. The minister's comments did not advance that debate in any positive sense," said Linn.