Google has hit back at an Australian politician who attacked the US technology group for being responsible for “probably the single biggest breach in the history of privacy”.

The US internet group has come under intense scrutiny from governments after admitting it intercepted personal data from homes and businesses while taking photographs for its Street View service.

The data had been collected in 30 countries during the past three years.

Stephen Conroy, Australia’s communications minister, is drafting laws for an internet filter. He has locked horns in the past with Google, an opponent of the scheme.

His attack on Google turned personal when he described the behaviour of Eric Schmidt, chief executive, as “a bit creepy”.

“They consider themselves to be above government,” Mr Conroy told Australia’s state broadcaster.

“They 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 photographing and collecting data information.

“This is probably the single greatest breach in the history of privacy.”

Mr Conroy disputed claims by Google that it had collected privacy information by mistake

“I am saying they wrote a piece of code designed to do it,” he said.

Google last week stopped the global deletion of collected private WiFi data
following confusion over what it should do with the material.

An official for Google in Australia said it was surprised that Mr Conroy had focused his comments on attacking the US group rather than defending his proposed internet filter.

Technology groups have attacked Mr Conroy’s plans for an internet filter that would censor pornography and drug use.

Iarla Flynn, head of policy at Google Australia, said that if Canberra’s plans went ahead, Australia would be alone among western democracies with a filter that was both mandatory and broadly scoped.

“A broadly scoped filter could block content which informs public debate on socially and politically controversial issues and raises genuine concerns about freedom of access to information,” Mr Flynn said.

Mr Conroy denied that his comments were payback for Google’s criticism of the government’s internet filter.

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