Privacy and Data Protection




Google Wi-fi Data Leads to Another Investigation
Global

Bloomberg reports that prosecutors have commenced investigations into whether Google broke the law when it unintentionally collected data from unsecured wireless networks. Google spokesperson Anoek Eckhardt reportedly said that the company was working with authorities and would “continue to answer any questions and concerns they might have”. The Belgian privacy authority reportedly concluded that Google had violated privacy law but could not take further action without the involvement of federal prosecutors.
Bloomberg: Google Probed By Belgian Authorities Over Privacy Lapses (22 April 2011)
(Source: Bloomberg)


Cautious Approval for Google Mapping Service
Global

The Datenschutzkommission (DSK) announced that it has approved the commencement of Google Street View’s operation in Austria, subject to a number of provisos. In particular, Google is obliged to blur entire images of people, when they are photographed near sensitive areas like hospitals. Views not ordinarily visible to pedestrians (such as of private gardens) are also prohibited and data subjects must be able to lodge an objection regarding the inclusion of their property on the database, even before images are released.
DSK’s media release (21 April 2011)
(Source: DSK)


Big Brother Awards
Asia Pacific

The Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) has announced the winners of its 2011 Big Brother Awards, which are designed to “highlight intrusions against the privacy of the Australian community … and to acknowledge those who have helped protect our privacy”:

  • Worst Corporate Invader: Facebook, with the Biometrics Institute given the runner-up prize;
  • Worst Public Agency or Official: jointly awarded to the Queensland Department of Transport for driver licensing and the Victorian Transport Ticketing Authority for the myki “smart card”;
  • Most Invasive Technology: Australian Office of Transport Security for its planned full body scanners at airports;
  • Boot in the Mouth: former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt for his comments on the company’s unauthorised acquisition of data from wireless networks; and
  • the Smith Award for Lifetime Achievement for outstanding services to privacy protection: Nigel Waters.

APF’s media release (21 April 2011) 

Related news item:
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH): Big Brother gongs go out for privacy wrongs (25 April 2011)
(Source: APF; SMH)


Damages Awarded for Misuse of Medical Information
Asia Pacific

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reports that the Administrative Decisions Tribunal has awarded A$40,000 in damages to a man whose medical records were misused by his employer. The man was reportedly both an employee and a patient of the same hospital, and it was found that a nurse had reported his admission for psychiatric treatment to the human resources manager, claiming exemption from privacy requirements. Tribunal member Stephen Montgomery reportedly awarded the maximum compensation possible because of the former Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service’s poor response to the allegations, and in view of the damage sustained by the claimant. Mr Montgomery also reportedly urged the health service to offer additional forms of redress.
SMH: $40,000 damages for breach of privacy (23 April 2011)
(Source: SMH)

Big Brother Awards
The Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) has announced the winners of its 2011 Big Brother Awards, which are designed to “highlight intrusions against the privacy of the Australian community … and to acknowledge those who have helped protect our privacy”:

  • Worst Corporate Invader: Facebook, with the Biometrics Institute given the runner-up prize;
  • Worst Public Agency or Official: jointly awarded to the Queensland Department of Transport for driver licensing and the Victorian Transport Ticketing Authority for the myki “smart card”;
  • Most Invasive Technology: Australian Office of Transport Security for its planned full body scanners at airports;
  • Boot in the Mouth: former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt for his comments on the company’s unauthorised acquisition of data from wireless networks; and
  • the Smith Award for Lifetime Achievement for outstanding services to privacy protection: Nigel Waters.

APF’s media release (21 April 2011) 

Related news item:
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH): Big Brother gongs go out for privacy wrongs (25 April 2011)
(Source: APF; SMH)


Apple I-phone Allegedly Tracking Locations
Global

Apple has denied tracking customers’ information, however admits to gathering “information about wireless gear near a user’s handset”, reports Bloomberg. Apple reportedly stated that it cannot locate user information based on wi-fi hotspots and cellular tower information, and that the information the company receives on locations is anonymous. The company has also reportedly given assurances that it will remedy a software bug that allowed handsets to retain more information than necessary, reports Bloomberg. Electronic Privacy Information Center executive director Marc Rotenberg has reportedly dismissed Apple’s assurances, stating that “[h]ot-spot and cellular-tower information shows where a device is”. Reportedly, Apple has been facing criticism after a former Apple software engineer and another computer programmer alleged that the company’s “operating system logs users’ coordinates along with the time a spot is visited”, which led to two Apple device users suing the company for breach of privacy and computer fraud.
Bloomberg: Apple Denies Tracking IPhone Locations, Will Update Software (28 April 2011)

Related news item:
Los Angeles Times: Apple cites bugs, user confusion in explanation of iPhone location data (27 April 2011)
Out-law.com: Researchers claim that Apple products track location details (21 April 2011)
(Source: Bloomberg; Los Angeles Times; out-law.com)