he 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.