The Australian government has ordered a police investigation into Internet giant Google over alleged privacy breaches, Attorney General Robert McClelland said on Sunday.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last month accused the company of committing the "single greatest breach in the history of privacy" by collecting private wireless data while taking pictures for its 'Street View' mapping service.
McClelland said the government had asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate after receiving numerous complaints.
"Obviously I won't pre-empt the outcome of that investigation but they relate in substantial part to possible breaches of the Telecommunications Interception Act, which prevents people accessing electronic information other than for authorised purposes," McClelland said.
Whether any charges are laid is up to the police, but the government felt "there were issues of substance that required police investigations", McClelland said.
Google said it collected the data in error.
"This was a mistake. We are talking to the appropriate authorities to answer any questions they have," a spokeswoman said in a statement.
The development comes after the Internet giant reportedly said its Street View cars taking photos in more than 30 countries had inadvertently gathered fragments of personal data sent over unsecured WiFi systems, and would hand information over to European data protection authorities.
Google has led criticism of Australia's planned Internet filter, warning it could damage the nation's reputation as a liberal democracy and set a dangerous global precedent.