Google Wi-Fi scans raise privacy issues

Australian privacy advocates have asked Google to reveal what Wi-Fi information its Street View cars are collecting as they scout the streets of Australia.

Australian privacy advocates have asked Google to reveal what Wi-Fi information its Street View cars are collecting as they scout the streets of Australia.

In a joint letter sent to Google Australia's head of policy Iarla Flynn yesterday, Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) and Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) asked the internet giant to explain a post on Google's LatLong blog last month, which mentions that Google's Street View cars also "catalogue the location of Wi-Fi access points".

EFA vice chair Geordie Guy and APF vice chair Dan Svantesson asked Flynn in the letter to explain what wireless network information was being recorded, what the purpose of collecting the data was and what else Google may be collecting in addition to this.

Google has not responded publicly to the letter yet, but had commented on similar queries from the German federal minister for Data Protection in a blog post last month.

In the post, Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer explained that the Street View cars captured addresses that contain network hardware identification information and the name of the network. Google used this collected information along with cell-tower information to triangulate the location of users who turn on the My Location feature of Google Maps. He added that no other information on the individual households was recorded and said that the information was not published.

Google Australia was contacted for comment. Spokesperson Lucinda Barlow said that the company would respond at a later point.