Britain Clears The Way For Google Street Views; Google Argues No “Complete Privacy” In US StreetView Court Case

Watchdog clears Google’s street cameras from The Guardian reports Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office has officially given their approval over the privacy risks with the Street Views option in Google Maps. Meanwhile in the US, Google is arguing in a court case against StreetView that there is no “complete privacy.”

Google Street Views launched in Europe earlier this month but sparked privacy concerns. The watchdog group has said they have no privacy concerns with the service after reviewing the safeguards Google has put in place.

The commissioner’s office released a statement:

We are satisfied that Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including the blurring of vehicle registration marks and the faces of anyone included in Street View images. Although it is possible that in certain limited circumstances an image may allow identification of an individual, it is clear that Google are keen to capture images of streets and not individuals.

Postscript From Danny:

Over in the US, Google is being sued by a couple who object to their home being pictured on StreetView, because they claim Google drove up a private road in Pennsylvania to snap a shot.

The Smoking Gun site highlights in new court documents how Google defends itself in part by saying that because the home can be seen by anyone, so it’s not private. It also says:

[C]omplete privacy does not exist in this world except in a desert and anyone who is not a hermit must expect and endure the ordinary incidents of the community life of which he [or she] is a part.

It goes on to say:

Today’s satellite-image technology means that even in today’s desert, complete privacy does not exist. In any event, Plaintiffs live far from the desert and are far from hermits. Although they live on a privately maintained road, the road is shared by several neighbors and there is nothing around their home intended to prevent the occasional entry by a stranger onto their driveway. There is no gate, no “keep out” sign, nor guard dog standing watch. There is no fence surrounding the property, nor is it located where the yard cannot be seen by satellite or low-flying aircraft. Indeed, images of Plaintiffs’ property that are already widely available on the Internet reflect that during the ordinary incidents of Plaintiffs’ community life, many people — visitors pulling in the driveway, neighbors turning around at the end of the road, deliverymen delivering packages — can plainly see the exterior view of their home. The view of which Plaintiffs complain simply is not private.

The filing suggests that the road wasn’t clearly marked as private but makes probably the strongest point that rather than have the image removed using existing tools, the couple has decided to sue for damages.

So a tip for those who don’t want to be on StreetView: make sure your private road is clearly marked and think about getting a guard dog :)

There is some additional coverage of the Britain news at Techmeme here and on the court case here.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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