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Australian Police To Investigate Google Over Wi-Fi Scanning 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopping-on-the-bandwagon dept.
daria42 writes "Those who thought the brouhaha over Google's scanning of Wi-Fi networks by its Street View cars was over (whether you believe it was deliberate or not) are destined to be disappointed. News comes from Australia over the weekend that the Australian government has referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police for investigation. The country's Attorney General, Robert McClelland, was quoted saying, 'Obviously I won't pre-empt the outcome of that investigation but they relate in substantial part to possible breaches of the Telecommunications Interception Act, which prevents people accessing electronic information other than for authorized purposes.'"
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Australian Police To Investigate Google Over Wi-Fi Scanning

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  • give it a rest (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @11:57AM (#32476228) Homepage Journal

    Is this the world's favorite new way to waste time, suing google for recording publicly available information from wifi spots as they drive?

    idiots. ALL idiots.

    • Is this the world's favorite new way to waste time, suing google for recording publicly available information from wifi spots as they drive?

      idiots. ALL idiots.

      Idiot?! No, geniuses!

      In this economy with government revenues tanking around the World, what better way to balance the budget than suing some big gigantic evil multinational corporation!

      1. Evil corp does evil or close to it
      2. Sue under some privacy law that government violates with impunity
      3. Threaten big corp with blocking them from country
      4. Settle out of court
      5. Profit!
    • Re:give it a rest (Score:4, Insightful)

      by melikamp (631205) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @12:06PM (#32476318) Homepage Journal

      May be they are using this law in order to get access to all of the collected data.

      • by dwarfsoft (461760)
        They want to pass this data on to CSIRO so they can sue the manufacturers for Wi-Fi Patent Infringement [slashdot.org].
    • I wish we had a Telecommunications Interception Act in the United States, and they'd investigate whether collecting IP addresses from bittorrent trackers was done for a purpose authorized by the bittorrent tracker.
      • by Wanon (808109)

        The TIA would not protect against this.

        You are sending your IP address to a tracker, which then sends the information to the copyright enforcers. Once it arrives on the **AA pc's, it's no longer on the Australian Telecommunications network, and therefore no longer covered by the Telecommunications Interception Act.

    • Re:give it a rest (Score:4, Insightful)

      by williamhb (758070) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @07:12PM (#32479298) Journal

      Is this the world's favorite new way to waste time, suing google for recording publicly available information from wifi spots as they drive?

      I hope they prosecute the pants off them. Suppose it wasn't Google but Microsoft. Would you still be happy for them to be intentionally gathering data (be it records of who has which WiFi device or the actual conversations) just because the electromagnetic fields were leaking through your walls? After all, the heat radiation that escapes through your walls and windows is "publicly available" so surely it'd be ok for them to sit outside with a thermal camera pointed at your house. And the sound radiation that leaks through too -- so there'd be "no problem" with them pointing very sensitive directional microphones towards your bedroom window and recording that too... I mean, it's just your own silly fault for not installing a lead-lined cone of silence over your bed...

      No, this is just slashdot giving Google a free pass (Slashdot's Google love-in), even though Google explicitly intended to gather and sell data about you without your permission. Their excuse is "oops, we didn't mean to gather quite that much data" not that they didn't mean to do it at all.

      • heya,

        Yes, but there's a distinct flaw in your argument.

        You see, there's a big difference between say, a normal Wifi card and your sensitive directional microphone. Driving past with a friggin $20 wifi card, I can pickup all your *open* wifi traffic. Nearly every laptop these days already has this inbuilt anyway. How many laptops do you know with inbuilt hyper-sensitive directional microphones that can pickup somebody's conversation inside a house.

        Actually, as somebody who's played with this stuff, I can tel

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by williamhb (758070)

          Actually, as somebody who's played with this stuff, I can tell you that you have no idea what you're even talking about. Do you realise how hard it is to actually pick up a single conversation from outside a house.

          Very easy. I can sit on my back deck and hear conversations going on in the four houses surrounding us. Most people don't shut their windows, and some even have lunch on their back decks, nattering away perhaps 2 metres from me with no walls in between. That their conversation is audible in public does not give me permission to record and sell who was having conversations with whom and when, let alone "accidentally" record the words that were spoken.

          Driving past with a friggin $20 wifi card, I can pickup all your *open* wifi traffic.

          Driving past with a 2c carrier bag to put it in, I can

    • by deek (22697)

      Ummm, where in the article did it mention that Google was getting sued? They're being investigated to see if they've broken Australian law. It's an investigation. No conclusion has come of it yet.

      Seems like a fairly reasonable thing to do. I wouldn't call it idiotic.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Wanon (808109)

      It may be publically available, but it's very specifically prohibited under the Australian Telecommunications Interception Act.

      If the AFP choose to, they would be prosecuted under criminal law, they wont be sued.

      People can go to jail for this. The government will not be making any sort of money out of this. Only upholding the law.

  • In other news.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thenextstevejobs (1586847) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @12:06PM (#32476314)
    Australian police arrest a subject for illegal surveillance for overhearing another parties conversation while walking down the street.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)

      Australian police arrest a subject for illegal surveillance for overhearing another party's conversation, and making a record of it in a carbon-based mass-storage device, while walking down the street.

      Clarified that. Wait, I see someone walking down my street recording images of what he sees, in his own carbon-based mass-storage device. Calling 911 right now...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by thegarbz (1787294)
      The problem is that given the way Australian laws are written Google may be in violation of many of them. Actually given the way Australian laws are written you may be in violation of one right now!
    • by Wanon (808109)

      If you read the actual law, you would realise that the overhearing something in the street is NOT the same as intercepting something that is on the Australian Telecommunications Network.

      The only way that would be illegal is if the people had a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Privacy Act.

      The TIA act only applies to the ATN.

      Please research before making unsubstantiated claims.

  • It's Sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YodaYid (1049908) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @12:26PM (#32476474) Homepage
    ...that as an American, I'm looking to Europe and Australia to actually stand up to Google and stop them from collecting every bit of data they can about me, like actually sending a van outside my house to grab information about my home network.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The US government is no match for war-driving mega-corps. It doesn't understand the problem and it's well paid not to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Iyonesco (1482555)

      You're actively broadcasting information about your home network and then complaining when somebody listens. That's like setting up a facebook account and then whining when somebody looks at it or talking very loudly in a room and complaining when people listen. You're being absurd!

      Why not just use a wired network? I don't like broadcasting my information to the world so I exclusively use wired network connections. You on the other hand also don't like broadcasting your information to the world but keep

      • I totally agree with this response. If you want to prevent the people you don't want hearing you from hearing you, then keep the chatter-box shut. It starts with you. It ends with you. No one is in control of you except... you.
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      ...that as an American, I'm looking to Europe and Australia to actually stand up to Google and stop them from collecting every bit of data they can about me, like actually sending a van outside my house to grab information about my home network.

      Don't fear Google. Fear me. I could be your neighbor. As of last week, my laptop could see about two dozen wireless access points. Most of those were encrypted. A handful aren't. The unencrypted ones aren't too chatty. One is fairly busy. I would hazard to guess that very few of my neighbors are aware that I can see them much less are looking. If one of them did suspect the possibility, I'd guess it was one of those who's network is encrypted.

      Yours should be too.

      • Re:It's Sad... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by zuperduperman (1206922) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @06:08PM (#32478856)

        This is what amazes me about this whole incident. Not one official person (other than from Google) has even once mentioned that people should protect their privacy by putting passwords on their Wifi access points.

        On the radio just today, Stephen Conroy said that Google may have captured people doing "sensitive banking transactions" as they drove past, as if it would be perfectly safe for them if only Google hadn't driven past and captured the data. Overlooking that all banking transactions are done over https, Conroy was effectively advising people that extremely risky behavior is perfectly OK. There is a level of extreme hypocrisy about the whole debate that leads me to believe this is 100% a witch hunt primarily designed to distract from the government's own desire to violate our privacy.

        • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

          Overlooking that all banking transactions are done over https, Conroy was effectively advising people that extremely risky behavior is perfectly OK. There is a level of extreme hypocrisy about the whole debate that leads me to believe this is 100% a witch hunt primarily designed to distract from the government's own desire to violate our privacy.

          It does strike me as being quite telling. These are worse thinking scenarios dreamed up to scare the horses. To what ends is an interesting question.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Hyperbole much?

      Secure your WiFi router. Problem solved.

  • Google did nothing wrong by accidentally keeping un-secured information. This information was being broadcast over open wi-fi connections past the boundary of private property onto public property. Ignorance of security measures you can take is not an excuse. If I do not replace the brakes to my car regularly because I failed to read the maintenance schedule in the manual, it is not anyone elses fault but my own. Same thing with securing your wi-fi network. By default not securing your wi-fi network means t
    • by 91degrees (207121)
      It's possible to detect private conversations from a considerable distance away using appropriate equipment. Is it acceptable to use this to listen in on conversations if they're not talking in code?

      I'm not sure of your brakes analogy. If they fail to stop your car it isn't through the action of an outside agency. If you fail to lock your car doors, then whose fault is it if someone steals your radio?
      • by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @01:32PM (#32476988)
        Part of being in a public place is that you accept the risk being overheard. The thing about Wi-fi networks is that there are many publicly available networks out there that allow people to use them. How are we to distinguish if its OK to use some of them but not others if people are too lazy to go through the necessary steps to secure their networks? Just by using someones public network you can intercept their communications. Having a public network you broadcast your data over is akin to leaving a basket full of stuff outside with a sign that says "Some things in here are free but Im not telling you what is or isnt, take these items at your own risk". Now, Google admitted that they accidentally kept extra data they should not have, and then promptly agreed to delete all of it. They were not doing what they were doing as a form of surveillance. Its pretty much the same thing as video taping a public place, accidentally taping someone talking about private business and then deleting that portion of the tape once you realize whats on it.
        • by 91degrees (207121)
          Quite so. You're quite right, but I'd argue that you've illustrated that the situation is at least a little more complicated than the original analogy suggested.
          • Yes, you are right.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by thegarbz (1787294)
              Both of you are quite right and one of you is breaking Australian privacy laws. The problem here is that everything hangs on the definition of what a "reasonable person" would expect of their privacy. I posted an example the the other slashdot google article then went through the Australian legal system:
              1. Girl standing at her bedroom window naked gets photographed from the street. She's in her own home but in plain view of the street -> Fine. You have not right to privacy because any reasonable person
        • by Wanon (808109)

          It's completely different to taping someone in a public place!!

          That's the Privacy Act.

          The law that Google has breached is the Telecommunications Interception Act. Completely different law concerning completely different matters.

          You can connect to someone else's WIFI access point all you like, but once you capture or sniff any of that traffic you are breaching the TIA act.

          • Australia has some backwards laws. Apparently politicians there have even less technology understanding than here in the US. Its easy to accidentally "sniff" packets. You could use have made a minor coding error that did this, and then not have realized it till your hard drives where filling up too early. Its what you do with that information that should determine the legal ramifications. For example, if you find someones wallet in their front yard and return it, then you are not breaking the law. If you fi
      • by Zerth (26112)

        How about: If I'm in my house and I'm yelling so loudly that I can be heard from the street, I no longer have any expectation of privacy to prevent my neighbor from recording it(perhaps as the basis for a noise complaint).

        I can't hold the opposite position too strongly though, as I do find it objectionable to use thermographic cameras as a basis for search warrants, but that's just some people can't tell the difference between a sauna and a grow-op. /has a sauna.

        • by 91degrees (207121)
          But if you need to use sensitive electronic equipment to even hear it, I don't think you'll have much of a basis for a noise complaint.
          • by Zerth (26112)

            Receiving wireless signal from the street does not require sensitive equipment.

            If they were using cantennas from an airplane, you might have a point.

            • by 91degrees (207121)
              For certain values of "sensitive"... You can't pick it up unaided. You also probably won't pick it up on a radio (unless you have one that can be tuned to the right frequency). The point is, it's something you actually have to look for. Loud noises you'll detect passively.
    • Ah, but what if they had been sniffing "encrypted" packets too? In the hope that one day their computing power would be sufficient to decrypt them. Or if they had been sniffing DECT packets, knowing that the encryption is weak?

      What security measures are "good enough" that they convey an expectation of privacy?

      • Unless you can prove intent to do something like that I would go along with what they say, and that is it was an accident and they remedied the situation.
  • *WHOOSH* That's the sound of the importance of users' MAC addresses being publicized flying over my head. Why should anybody be concerned if the RIAA, or Google, or anybody else knows your MAC address?

    I fail to see how your NIC's MAC address can be used to extract sensitive or private information. I don't know of any way that it can be cross-referenced or traced. Whenever you are requesting information from a server, doesn't every hop along the way replace the "source MAC address" in the IP packet heade

    • IPv6 - mac address is part of your IPv6 address and uniqe to every Mac on the planet (supposedly).

      • by Anubis350 (772791)
        IPV6 is still an *IP* address, not the Media Access Control address [wikipedia.org], the hardware address for your NIC. That said, while a MAC address *is* theoretically unique to a NIC, it can easily be spoofed. However dont confuse it with IPV6
      • by Leebert (1694) *

        IPv6 - mac address is part of your IPv6 address and uniqe to every Mac on the planet

        That's just one convention, and certainly not a requirement. Take a look at the privacy extensions for stateless autoconfiguration RFC, for example, which helps to mitigate exactly this vulnerability.

  • Pure Greed (Score:1, Troll)

    by Local ID10T (790134)

    Everyone wants a piece of Google's cash pie.

    Rupert Murdoch thinks that Google should pay him for sending business his way, and the governments of the wold want to find some vague wrongdoing to levy a big fine over.

    If you have been in a cave for the past few years, what Google is doing is collecting data to improve their Google Maps functionality. They took pictures to add "street view" so that you can see what the place you are trying to find actually looks like. They logged SSIDs so that your wifi device

    • Everyone wants a piece of Google's cash pie.

      It happens on all levels when you become successful. Both as a business and personally.

    • I wish Rupert would go swimming in shark infested waters. Maybe Green Peace will do some chumming nearby. Wait - no - Green Peace loves nature, they wouldn't poison any unsuspecting sharks. I should contact Anon with this idea then? They wouldn't mind a few poisoned sharks, I would think.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not greed...unfortunately. It's because the minister in charge of communication is a petulant 5 year old. He has a wooley idea that filtering all internet traffic by using a black list system would be the best way to stop kiddie porn. Unfortunately he hasn't seemed to answer the detailed questions, of how exactly this is going to help.
      Anyway google may have mentioned that his actions were at odds with free speech (particularly since we dont get to see what is on the black list) and that Australia would

  • Do you even understand your portfolio? Do your staff understand it?

    As a respected ICT professional let me provide you some feedback. Nothing you have done in your tenure as has materially improved our nation. In fact you are making Australia the laughing stock of of the ICT profession world wide.

    I understand that in this instance that the opposition ministers are also acting naively for cheap political gain, yet as the portfolio holder, I would expect you to provide some leadership and common sense.

  • Its not *just* about doing the so called right thing and standing up to Google. Remember Oz is not far from the Great Firewall of China. Left for Dead 2 is censored different to the rest of the 1st World(outside of the German Sensitivities of violent games), Linden Labs have their own Second Life servers in OZ in readiness that their game is deemed "Offensive" by the govt and they can manage content, and was home to the WikiLeaks being blacklisted on the OZ Great Firewall because they displeased the Admini
    • by thethibs (882667)

      Conservative, you say?

      Odd. In Canada, it's the other way round. All of the laws restricting speech were written and passed by Liberal governments. The one time martial law (the ultimate censorship) was declared, it was by a Liberal Prime Minister.

      Does that make OZ more conservative, or more liberal, than Canada?

      My head hurts.

  • Someone taking a snapshot of me while I walk down the street is perfectly legal and fine.
    Someone following me with a camera is creepy and possibly illegal.
    Someone following me with a disguised camera, talking pictures while pretending to do something else?

    It's all a matter of scale.

    Accidentally(?) recording a few snippets of open WiFi isn't much of a problem.
    Doing it globally is.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Someone taking a snapshot of me while I walk down the street is perfectly legal and fine.

      Until you decide you don't like it, then you want another law.

      Someone following me with a camera is creepy and possibly illegal.

      Ohhh, it's creepy, better make it illegal. That's the problem with the world today.

      Someone following me with a disguised camera, talking pictures while pretending to do something else?

      Could be a private detective and make his living that way. You're in public, people can see you, get over it.

    • I find it interesting that you dismiss individual rights and enshrine those of the collective.

      Is it ok for me to kill one person but if I kill a lot it's a problem?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Wanon (808109)

      The problem is the TIA act in Australia forbids unauthorised interception of *any* medium that forms part of the Australian Telecommunications Network, which your home network does in fact form part of.

      This is a massive deal under Australian law. There is a specific law that specifically prohibits what Google did. So, yes, recording even a single packet is a massive deal under this law.

  • This in the country where the police don't need an interception warrant to bug your phone, download your email or check you voicemail. Maybe they just don't like Google stepping on their turf.
  • The level of understanding of Internet issues displayed by the Australian Communications Minister is stunning.

    Ted Stevens: the Internet is a series of tubes.
    Stephen Conroy: unsecured wireless access points are transparent tubes that it is a deep invasion of privacy to look through.

    Dear Minister: Driving past a house and picking up traffic on an unsecured wireless network is like walking past the house of a stupid person who is using his hands-free phone by standing on the roof of his house and shouting a co

  • People, please note that the investigation by the police will be focusing on the Telecommunications Interception Act which governs the interception (inadvertant or otherwise) of anything that is traversing over the Australian Telecommunications Network.

    The ATN is any medium and communications device that is directly connected to any Australian infrastructure. This includes all your home routers, all telephones and any other communications medium.

    Compare this with the Privacy Act, (which may also apply) it i

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