In Italy the country’s privacy authorities are asking Google to more clearly mark Street View cars, as well as publicize their itineraries. According to Reuters:
Under the regulator’s decision, Google has to publish three days in advance on its website, in local newspapers and on radio in which locality, including which area of a large city, the cars will be operating, La Stampa said.
Will this bring out protesters to shadow and harass Street View cars? One would hope not. But there was that incident in the UK in 2009 where local residents “formed a human chain” to prevent a Street View car from photographing a local village.
And over in the UK Google is potentially facing a substantial fine from the inadvertent capture of personal information during Street View WiFi data collection. However it’s unclear whether any fine will actually be imposed. According to Britain’s Independent:
Britain’s Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, announced yesterday that he is launching a new investigation into the Street View project, in which Google sent cars around photographing residential streets . . .
Six months ago, Mr Graham was granted new powers by the outgoing Labour government, including the authority to ability fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of privacy.
The irony here is that many privacy breaches have come at the hands of government agencies, which is something of an embarrassment. So far UK authorities have not fined those agencies:
Mr Graham has not yet imposed a fine under the powers that were granted to him six months ago because the commonest offenders against privacy rules are government agencies, such as NHS trusts, so a fine would simply transfer money from one branch of the state to another.
Actually fining Google may create some controversy for the government as it tolerates privacy violations among its own agencies.
It must be said here that Google was forthright and quickly acknowledged the personal data transgressions. It has now permanently discontinued the collection of WiFi data.
Because the company is so big and visible it’s often the target of privacy advocates and critics. However Google has been more progressive than its competitors about privacy in a number of situations, which I’ve discussed in the past (such as behavioral targeting).
There are other companies, in this era of data-mining and audience targeting, such as RapLeaf that are less well-known and much more shadowy and whose practices border on “evil.“