By Peter Farquhar and Andrew Ramadge
May 25, 2010
  • Minister "singling out Google, Facebook"
  • Senator labels Google as "creepy"
  • Search giant says he's "not listening"

THE relationship between the world's biggest web company and Australia's communications minister appears to have broken down entirely.

Google Australia head of engineering Alan Noble today said the search giant was all but resigned to the fact that Stephen Conroy had singled it out as the poster boy for everything bad about the internet because of its stance on the Government's controversial internet filtering policy.

"Right now, he's decided that filtering's all about Google, for some reason," he said.

"Singling out companies like Google or Facebook is distracting. It's not about Google, it's about you, me, all Australians."

Mr Noble said Google had been in talks with Senator Conroy about the policy for up to two years, but they had recently broken down.

"We've had extensive discussions with Senator Conroy through the past two years," he said at the company's I/O event in Sydney.

"We've been pretty clear in our views about filtering and stuck to our guns but clearly Senator Conroy is pushing his view very hard.

"Right now, no, I don't think he is listening (to us)."

Mr Noble's comments came after Senator Conroy last night labelled the company as "creepy" and accused it of "the single greatest breach in the history of privacy".

Senator Conroy was referring to Google's collection of Wi-Fi data with its Street View cars while gathering data for the mapping service.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin last week said the company had "screwed up" by accidentally collecting the data, which attracted the ire of privacy organisations around the world.

Senator Conroy last night disputed collection of the data was an accident.

"It was actually quite deliberate ... the computer program that collected it was designed to collect this information," Senator Conroy told a Senate committee hearing.

However some commentators, including Greens communication spokesman Scott Ludlam, understood the attack to be "payback" for Google's stance on internet filtering.

"Google's harvesting of unsecured Wi-Fi data has been rightfully condemned worldwide," Senator Ludlam said.

"But you get the sense that this is just a convenient foil for the minister's frustration at the rising opposition to the net filter."

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