Australian police to probe Google over privacy issues

Australian police have been asked to investigate Internet giant Google over possible breaches of telecommunications privacy laws, the attorney general said on Sunday.

The investigation follows complaints from members of the public about activities of Google employees while taking photographs for Google Maps, the search engine's maps page.

The "Street View" service has recently come under fire in several countries. The company has said it inadvertently picked up personal data from some unencrypted Wi-Fi services over several years.

Google said on Sunday it would cooperate with the Australia police investigation.

The probe comes amid a wave of criticism worldwide over collection of personal information by Internet giants, including Google and Facebook.

The matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police on Friday after complaints from members of the public, Robert McClelland told journalists in Melbourne at the start of a forum on Internet security.

"On Friday the attorney-general's department did refer those allegations and those reports to the Australian Federal Police," McClelland said.

"They relate in substantial part to possible breaches of the Telecommunications Interceptions Act, which prevents people accessing electronic communications other than for authorised purposes."

A police spokeswoman confirmed a referral had been received.

Senior company executive Alan Eustace said last month the company had mistakenly collected personal data from Wi-Fi networks, and ordered a halt to the practice. However, he said this only involved unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, and none of the data was used in Google products.

A Google spokeswoman said on Sunday the company had made an error.

"This was a mistake. We are talking to the appropriate authorities to answer any questions they have," she said in a brief written reply to Reuters.

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