Google has confirmed that its Street View program has ceased operations in Australia following the fallout of its Wi-Fi data collection controversy earlier this year.
The decision, revealed at a Senate inquiry into the adequacy of protections for the privacy of Australians online, and follows the admission from Google that it had indeed “mistakenly” collected data from home networks via its Street View cars, noting private emails, Web addresses as well as passwords were among the data captured.
Google head of public policy and government affairs, Iarla Flynn, told the Senate that its Street View cars driving in Australia and overseas were primarily taking pictures for the service and collecting Wi-Fi information to help with location based services.
“When we discovered the mistake in collection of payload data we stopped all Street View driving and we’ve not resumed driving here at this time,” Flynn said.
When quizzed further on specifically whether Google had simply ceased Wi-Fi collection or whether the cars had altogether stopped operating in Australia at present, Flynn confirmed that the cars were not in action in any form.
“That’s correct, and for the future phases of Street View driving we will not be collecting any Wi-Fi information at all,” he said.
The Senate pressed the Google representatives about the future plans Google has in place for Street View, however was met with an uncertain response.
“We would like to [be active again] but there are no plans to resume at this time,” Flynn said.
“There’s no timeline associated with that at this time,” Google policy counsel, Ishtar Vij, told the inquiry.
The company representatives were also uncertain on exactly how many of the Street View cars were operating in Australia at the time of the data collection.
Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, questioned the representatives on whether the entirety of the payload data collected had been deleted by Google, to which Vij explained investigations into the matter were still ongoing in many parts of the world.
“We certainly want to delete the data,” Flynn said.
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