Google stills holds sensitive New Zealand information

23:52, Oct 09 2012

Google has come under fire from the New Zealand Privacy Commission after it was forced to admit that it still holds sensitive information it illegally obtained from New Zealand WiFi networks.

Some WiFi users' information was accessed when Google captured data from unsecured WiFi networks during its Street View filming in 2008.

Google told government officials in July that it still had payload information from WiFi networks, despite saying months earlier that all information had been destroyed and it had been verified by an independent agency.

The New Zealand Privacy Commission immediately asked Google to confirm whether any of that information was from New Zealand on Friday and this month the search engine giant confirmed it was. It said it had one disk which may contain information originated from its Street View filming on New Zealand and Australian roads.

The Privacy Commissioner's office has ordered Google to destroy the disk, but it is unclear whether this has happened.

"It's very disappointing that this disk could be overlooked," Assistant Commissioner Katrine Evans said.


"Collecting the information in the first place was a major breach of privacy, and we made it plain as part of our original investigation that all the information should be destroyed."

“We’ve already told Google to destroy the disk, with the agreement of the Australian Privacy Commissioner. We will also be writing to Google to double-check that we understand exactly how the disk could be overlooked, so we can see whether further protections are needed. We also want to make sure that everything has truly been deleted this time.”

News of Google's privacy breach first surfaced in New Zealand in May, 2010.

The Privacy Commissioner investigated and concluded in December, 2010, that Google had breached New Zealand privacy laws.

It was ordered to destroy the payload information and Google and an independent third-party verified in March, 2011, that it had.

"Fortunately, it appears very unlikely that the information on the disk has been accessed or used in any way," Evans said of the remaining disk.

"Google is willing to destroy the disk. It has also apologised for its mistake. We sincerely hope that this will be an end to what has been a long-running saga."

Fairfax Media