Stephen Conroy, Australia's very own Mr. 1984, the Lucky Country's minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the man responsible for pushing through the Rudd government's contentious and Orwellian web censorship legislation in his home country says that Google's Street View is "the biggest single breach of privacy in history". What do you do? Laugh or cry? Martyn Warwick reports.
In an address to a senate committee, Mr. Conroy said that Google's illicit collection of data transmitted from unencrypted and unprotected private wireless networks and scooped up by the company's fleet of Street View camera vehicles was a "deliberate strategy" with sinister intent.
He said, "The approach taken by Mr. Schmitt (Eric Schmitt, Google's CEO) is, frankly, creepy. When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, 'trust us'. That is what they actually state on their website: 'Trust us'. This company considers itself above governments, well, it's not above us."
He continued, "They [Google] consider that they are the appropriate people to make the decisions about people's privacy data and that they are perfectly entitled to drive the streets and collect as much private information by photographing over fences and collecting data information.
They didn't collect this data by mistake, Google staff deliberately wrote a computer program designed with the deliberate intent to gather information secretly and illicitly."
In response Google rejected the minister's claims as "baseless" and sought to deflect matters away from itself by claiming that it was "surprised to hear criticism about its privacy record in a hearing that was supposed to be focused on proposed internet filters."
This isn't the first time that Stephen Conroy has criticised Google, nor is it the first time he has clashed with Eric Schmitt. The two are united in mutual contempt for one another and exchanges between them are usually stiff and frosty.
Schmitt has lambasted Conroy's plan for government-imposed web censorship (promoted and designed to prevent the dissemination of child pornography but, in fact, encompassing many other web-bsed activities including politics) as draconian and totalitarian, whilst Conroy thinks Google is getting so big and powerful that it is running out of control.
The stage seems set for yet another bout of carping and mud-slinging. Those two deserve each other.
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