2010/09/02

New Zealand police say Google data gathering was not a crime

WELLINGTON, September  2, 2010 (AFP) - New Zealand police said Thursday that Google did not commit a criminal offence when it collected data from wireless networks for its "Street View" mapping service.

The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner called in police in June after Google admitted that its cars taking photographs of cities in more than 30 countries had inadvertently gathered personal data sent over unsecured wifi systems.

Privacy regulators in Australia, Europe, the US and Canada also launched investigations into data the web giant's camera-equipped cars collected while taking photos of streets and houses.

New Zealand police said Google's actions did not constitute a criminal offence and they had referred the matter back to the Privacy Commissioner.

"An investigation by police has determined that there is no evidence to suggest a criminal offence has been committed," Detective Senior Sergeant John van den Heuvel from the NZ police cyber crime centre said.

However, van den Heuvel said the case underlined the need for web users to put in place security measures when using wireless networks.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner Katrine Evans said the police finding did not mean the regulator's probe into Google had been abandoned, but she declined to give details of the investigation.

Concerns in the case centre on Google's collection of so-called "payload data", unencrypted information sent on wireless networks that are not protected by passwords which can contain personal information, including the content of e-mails.

Google said in July that its "Street View" cars would resume operations in some countries but collect only photos and 3D imagery, not wifi data.

Google New Zealand was not immediately available for comment, however in June a spokesman said the company was "profoundly sorry" for the mistake.