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Google Privacy Your Rights Online

EU Says Google Street View Violates Privacy 300

Posted by kdawson
from the watch-where-you-point-that-thing dept.
upto0013 notes the latest spot of trouble for Google in Europe: the EU says that Google's Street View images violate privacy laws. The EU's privacy watchdog asked Google to notify cities and towns before photographing (Google says it does this already) and to delete original photos after 6 months (Google keeps them for a year and says it has reason to do so). "[T]he privacy official] said that the company should revise its 'disproportionate' policy of keeping the original unblurred images for up to a year, saying improvements in Google's blurring technology and better public awareness would lead to fewer complaints — and a shorter delay for people to react to the photos they see on the site. Complaints about the images put online would usually be checked against the original photos."
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EU Says Google Street View Violates Privacy

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  • Photos in public (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:38PM (#31287516) Homepage
    I really don't see the philosophical or policy basis for seeing this as something which privacy laws should prohibit. What is visible in public should be photographable to the public. If I can see it with my eyes without violating a law, why shouldn't I be able to photograph it? And if I can do it for individual photos why shouldn't Google be able to do it systematically?
  • by megamerican (1073936) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:44PM (#31287632)

    Future quote from Eric Schmidt, Google CEO:

    "If you have something that you don't want anyone to see, maybe you shouldn't have it in the first place."

  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:48PM (#31287710)

    Let me guess, your argument is this: "Because the EU allows the UK to violate privacy so blatantly, it should also allow all other violations of privacy by any other person, company, or instituation."

  • Re:Photos in public (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:02PM (#31287952)

    All the street view images that I've seen are so fuzzy that I often can't decipher the large signs on the fronts of businesses, much less anything inside a residential window (curtains or not).

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:03PM (#31287966)
    I love it when the government writes a law forcing someone else to do something, then the government officials who drafted the law take credit for it. Hilarious! As if those idiots ever did anything other than sit around and talk!
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:06PM (#31288022)
    That's right, that would be the fair thing to do. Seriously, isn't universal application generally considered an extremely important aspect of maintaining The Rule of Law (TM)?
  • by Nuskrad (740518) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:13PM (#31288174)
    Retaining the DNA of innocent people and using stop and search powers without reasonable suspicion are two areas that come to mind, the UK government has been successfully prosecuted in the ECHR but has yet to comply with the rulings
  • Re:Photos in public (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:34PM (#31288578) Journal

    >>>>>"Officer, I was clearly standing on the street with my camera. It's not my fault that the girl was naked in her bedroom. She shouldn't have left the curtains open."
    >>
    >>There's Peeping Tom laws in many places, for one thing,

    Here in the U.S. laws operate backwards. A Virginia woman was walking her kid to school, she looked through a front window where she saw a naked man, and she was offended for her self and her child. Reasonable people would either charge the woman with peeping, or else just say "it's a human body; don't be such a prude" and drop the case.

    Instead the Virginia government arrested the naked man for indecent exposure even though he was *inside* his own house, and merely getting dressed for work.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:37PM (#31288618) Journal

    I'm guessing it's because the UK has lots of cameras especially in cities. London has thousands of CCTVs.

    But of course that's different because the public don't get to see those camera recordings.

    And they go conveniently blank/missing:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Charles_de_Menezes#Missing_CCTV_footage [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Photos in public (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:40PM (#31288658) Journal

    "Officer, I was clearly standing on the street with my camera. It's not my fault that the girl was naked in her bedroom. She shouldn't have left the curtains open."

    What's unreasonable about that? If you want privacy, close your curtains. It's not hard. I understand that peeping tom laws exist, but they shouldn't. Just close your curtains, no need to get the government involved.

  • Re:Photos in public (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ashitaka (27544) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:57PM (#31288902) Homepage

    This is why a huge portion of Tokyo including the street where I used to live is no longer covered by Streetview. The wall outside our landlord neighbour's house is about 2m high. I couldn't see over it when walking by it but the Google pics when they were up it was easy to see into their living room. Most Japanese urban houses are less than 2 meters from the road. In these cases you are able to see what someone walking would not, hence the application of laws related to unnatural viewpoints.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Friday February 26, 2010 @05:02PM (#31290566) Homepage
    The UK government can store my data, within a lot of areas they track me constantly with CCTV, they want to look at my genitals when I fly and then there's Echelon. Quite frankly Google Street View is the least of my concerns.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday February 26, 2010 @10:48PM (#31294026)

    I think the general question of how to treat observations made using specialised equipment that can detect more than a human alone is a tricky one, and something that privacy laws are going to have to confront head-on as technology improves. In Streisand's case, it was a plane, but anything from a satellite looking down onto private property to a listening device that can pick up private conversations inside another building would prompt the same question, as indeed does using the Google camera van here.

    If the observation is incidental and does not reveal anything sensitive (which is a subjective judgement you'd have to make on a case by case basis) then I tend to take the view of "no harm, no foul".

    However, I think it is reasonable to expect anyone using equipment with the potential to invade privacy to act with due respect for others. As far as I'm concerned, that means all of:

    • not deliberately observing what would normally be a private act
    • not allowing such an invasion through negligence (i.e., where it could reasonably have been anticipated and avoided)
    • dealing quickly and sensitively with any genuinely accidental invasion of privacy, including promptly destroying all related records.

    For example, you've probably gathered that I have no sympathy for Google here, because it is obvious that mounting a camera up high enough to see over walls into people's back yards is going to upset some people and will almost inevitably capture some moments that were intended, and reasonably expected, to be private. Even if you stretch to arguing that this was the first time anyone tried anything like this and Google didn't realise what might happen, that defence doesn't stand up at all if they continue to capture more pictures in the same way after complaints about the early observations start coming in and the safeguards are known to be inadequate.

    Had the Streisand case involved paps with telephoto lenses flying past, snapping photos of a party where personal friends were sunbathing in a revealing state that they would normally have expected to be private, then as far as I'm concerned it would have been fair to lock up the paps and anyone else who knowingly incited or profited from the photography for as long as any copy of the photos was found to be in circulation.

    In reality, AFAIK, the Streisand incident only involved photography from a distance that neither was intended to reveal nor did in fact reveal anything personally sensitive, so "no harm, no foul" applies in that case IMHO.

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