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Australia says Google violated privacy law, Google says sorry

Australia's Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, said Friday that Google appeared to violate the country's privacy laws but she was unable to impose sanctions on the firm. Instead, the company has issued an apology, at her request, for snooping on residential Wi-Fi networks via its Street View cars.

"My role is to work with the organisation to ensure ongoing compliance and best privacy practice," Curtis said in a statement. She said the investigation is ongoing and that other privacy officials may be looking into Google's admission that its Street View cars, which were taking pictures of areas for its maps, were also collecting information about Wi-Fi accounts and potentially personal information as their cars roamed neighborhoods around the world.

She said her agency supports the Australian Law Reform Commission's recommendation to strengthen privacy laws. And she said Google, after her investigation, agreed to do an assessment of how any new Street View data collection could impact privacy and provide copies of that information to her office.

In a blog entitled "We're Sorry," Google senior vice president of engineering, Alan Eustace said again it was an accident that the company collected user information.

"We are acutely aware that we failed badly here," he wrote.

By Cecilia Kang  |  July 9, 2010; 2:03 PM ET
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