The Hansard transcript of Stephen Conroy’s Senate Estimates assault on Google is finally online (thanks to the real-time web, I have all the patience of a three-year-old with ADD these days. Surely it’s time Hansard became a liveblog?), confirming it was very much a pre-meditated attack.

The edited highlights:

Senator Conroy: This has been worldwide. Google takes the view that they can do anything they want — they do not evil to themselves. I do have a little bit of information. You actually cut into an answer I was  hoping to give, but I will take you through the information that I have.

It is possible that this has been the largest privacy breach in history across Western democracies. After being caught out by European privacy commissioners, Google has admitted that their Streetview cars—the ones that drive down your street and photograph your house without your permission so that they can make it available worldwide for use in their Streetview product—has also been collecting information from people using wi-fi connections; that is, your personal data, including, potentially, emails.

It is interesting to note that this claim that it was a mistake came only after the data protection authority in Germany asked to audit Google’s data. They continually say publicly, ‘Trust us.’ This comes on top of recent controversies relating to the Google Buzz product, which made public the details of the people users most emailed and chatted with on their social networking site. I can fully explain the policies being adopted by a company like Google. In December 2009 their CEO, Eric Schmidt, told CNBC, ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.’ At the World Mobile Conference in Barcelona in February the same CEO falsely denied any privacy breach with Buzz. He stated, ‘People thought that somehow we were publishing their email addresses and private information, which was not true’, when it was true. He said, ‘It was our fault that we did not communicate that fact very well, but the important thing is that no really bad stuff happens in the sense that nobody’s personal information was disclosed.’ I repeat that it was. Google Buzz exposed one user’s location to her abusive ex-partner, and it was only after worldwide condemnation of Google that they actually apologised. People should not mistake the approach being taken by Google on a range of issues around the world.

At an Abu Dhabi media summit in March 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, ‘Google sees itself really differently from other companies, because we see ourselves as a company with a mission about information and not a mission about revenue or profits.’ Yet at the third quarter earning call for Google on 15 October 2009, Eric Schmidt told Wall Street analysts on the phone hook-up, ‘We love cash.’

Schmidt made the statement about how they were not really doing these things and the abusive ex-partner got someone’s address. Schmidt said that after a civil liberties group had already issued a warning about Buzz’s serious problems with private information and after Google’s own spokesman, Todd Jackson, had said, ‘Google was very, very sorry for getting millions of users rightfully upset.’ Google were also questioned at the Abu Dhabi media summit. Mr Schmidt was asked about the company’s worrisome stash of private data on its users: ‘All this information that you have about us, does that scare anyone in the room?’ The response from Mr Schmidt was: ‘Would you prefer someone else? Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?’ Frankly, I think the approach taken by Mr Schmidt is a bit creepy.

This is a company that says ‘do no evil’, but tries to pretend that it is not motivated by profit and that it knows best and ‘you can trust us’ when it comes to privacy. Unfortunately there are no safeguards. You are dealing with company policy. There are more issues that I will come to when we get to YouTube later. When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, ‘Trust us.’ They state on the website, ‘Trust us.’

They consider themselves to be above government. They consider that they are the appropriate people to make the decisions about people’s privacy data, that they are perfectly entitled to drive the streets and collect private information by photographing over fences and collecting data/information. This is probably the single greatest breach in history of privacy. That is why so many governments around the world have reacted in the way they have to a company like Google.

Senator Fisher: … That is five minutes of estimates we will never get back.

There’s heaps more — including some more choice words on Facebook and YouTube. You can download the entire thing here (pdf).

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