Australian police launch Google privacy investigation

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Australia announced a police investigation yesterday into whether Google illegally collected private information from wireless networks, becoming at least the second country to probe the internet giant's Street View mapping service.

The Australian criminal investigation comes as more regulators and consumers watchdogs around the world are complaining that Google doesn't take people's privacy seriously enough. Google maintains that its users' privacy is one of the company's highest priorities.

Google acknowledged last month that it had mistakenly collected fragments of data over public Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries while it was taking pictures of neighborhoods for the Street View feature. Google said it discovered the problem after German regulators launched an inquiry into the matter.

The head of the US House Judiciary Committee sent letters to Google and Facebook urging them to co-operate with any government privacy inquiries.

The Australian probe follows questions over whether Google employees taking photographs for the mapping service violated the country's privacy laws. "In light of concerns having been raised by the public, my department thought there were issues of substance that were raised that require police investigation," Australia's Attorney General, Robert McClelland, said.

"This was a mistake," Google said in a statement. "We are talking to the appropriate authorities to answer any questions they have."