Google should be made to tell us what it knows about us
It seems that Google’s continued mishandling of the wi-fi snooping incident means it has a different interpretation of the phrase “cooperating with authorities” than what the rest of us would reasonably expect.
The New York Times recently reported that Google has given European investigators only remote access to data now stored in Mountain View, California.
Data those investigators need to determine if Google breached various tough privacy laws.
Data which even Google admits was improperly taken from homes and businesses in over 30 countries.
Data that belongs to the citizens of those countries.
It’s a bit cute that now Google hides behind arguments it is protecting privacy of those citizens as its way of “fully cooperating” with the agencies tasked with protecting that privacy.
Now the investigators need to trust Google is giving them access to everything. So much for cooperation.
On the 6th of June this year the Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced that the Australian Federal Police would investigate Google stating “In light of concerns having been raised by the public, my department thought there were issues of substance that were raised that require police investigation.”
This is in addition to actions being undertaken by the Office of Privacy Commissioner.
I’m guessing Google will cooperate with Australian agencies as completely as it has with the powerful European regulators.
We shouldn’t let it: Australian investigators need access to the original - forensically sound and untampered - evidence, as well as notes and records around the creation and discovery and continued use of the Street View data interception code. And they need to interview engineering staff and management in Google who designed, deployed, authorised and used the code.
If all of those (and more) are not available in Australia then Australian authorities must move to secure that information at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. This is possible via Australia’s strong relationships with US agencies and existing international mutual assistance treaties.
Even if by some miracle the original hard drive is still in Australia and the police can seize it appropriately, most of the relevant witnesses, notes and records will be in the US, so investigators and technical experts should travel there to conduct their investigation, after interviewing whomever is relevant in Google’s Sydney offices.
At some point all private citizens affected by Google’s actions should be notified so that they may consider their civil options (as the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act allows) and that will only be possible if the Australian government holds the data and does not destroy it as has - wrongly - been suggested by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
The public concerns referred to by the Attorney-General are justified, and a full account of the investigations and findings by the Australian Federal Police and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner should be made to the public.
Let’s hope that Google’s cooperation continues, maybe even matures. Its high time it did.
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