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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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  • by yttrstein (891553) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:38PM (#31287514) Homepage
    You know, the EU has a lot of nerve coming down on google for "privacy violations"; the same body who seems to have exactly no problem at all with Britain's blatant and constant violations, and they've actually been a MEMBER of the EU since 1973.

    All politics, no substance, this. Moot, meaningless, next.
    • by necro81 (917438)
      that's why I immediately looked for the tag "potkettleblack", or, "hypocrisy", or something similar, attached to this story.
    • You know, the EU has a lot of nerve coming down on google for "privacy violations"; the same body who seems to have exactly no problem at all with Britain's blatant and constant violations, and they've actually been a MEMBER of the EU since 1973.

      The EU has been around since 1973? How in the world did they form before the internet was invented?

    • by sopssa (1498795) *

      That's solely UK's own issue. EU isn't a government nor does it work like US. If UK blatantly and explicitly goes directly against some EU law, then they might say something about it.

      What EU privacy law is UK specifically violating?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by aaaaaaargh! (1150173)

      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."

      • by yttrstein (891553)
        I'm not making an argument, im pointing out a massive hypocrisy that is clearly embedded in politics.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mosb1000 (710161)
        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)?
    • You do realise that European-level courts have ruled several practices of the British government illegal, including some relating to privacy, in recent months? The fact that the government here is illegally failing to comply with those court rulings and getting away with it is disturbing, but what more would you have the EU do?

      In any case, the British government at least has some degree of sovereignty and accountability to its electorate to contend with as a consequence. Google is a mere corporation, and co

  • 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 twidarkling (1537077) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:49PM (#31287724)

      "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, and there's lots of instances of individual efforts being acceptable where organized efforts are held to be unacceptable. For instance, refreshing on a site. One person does it, they're checking for new content. Many people do it, it's a DDoS.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)

        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).

      • No, just slashdot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        >>>>>"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 pee

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Dwarfgoat (472356)

          Ah, yes, that was quite the media brouhaha around these parts last fall. Despite the fact that it later turned out the woman who filed the complaint had been trespassing, cutting through his yard (resulting in her being in a place a normal person would not have been able to see in his kitchen window) he was convicted of indecent exposure a few months later. The judge waived any jail time, saying that he didn't put people in jail for being stupid [referring to the defendant not closing the curtains] or (an

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192)

        "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.

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        I don't think the peeping tom laws go that far. If you took a picture of a building for some other purpose, and the naked girl just happened to appear in it, the I do not believe photo would be illegal. Similarly, I doubt one could get away with hiring someone to stand in the window naked just to make the building unphotographable.

    • Re:Photos in public (Score:5, Informative)

      by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:55PM (#31287848) Journal

      However, remember that the Google van has the camera a lot higher than what you could see walking on the street. For example there has been many cases where the camera has photographed inside peoples apartment or over garden walls, even people without clothes. If you went taking photos of someones backyard that is otherwise shield, you would be violating law. Same thing if you went taking pictures of someone through his/her window. Google is doing exactly this, on a mass scale, and then putting them on the internet for everyone to see.

    • 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?

      Just for the sake of argument...

      You drop skin cells in public all the time. Would you object to me collecting them, analyzing your DNA, and then sharing with the world a list of your genetic limitations?

      Or...

      Women wear skirts in public. In various circumstances, for instance on glass walkways, this creates "visibility issues." That's not a big problem. Would it be acceptable for the owner of such a walkway to stick a camera underneath, photograph each person, then put the photos on a website that connec

      • >>>Cue a bunch of silly /. responses about hypothetical situation #2...

        If we were all naked like our animal brethern, none of this would matter. We'd get so used to seeing human bodies we'd think nothing of it.

        How's that?

  • by josepha48 (13953) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:40PM (#31287538) Journal
    It's not like they are photographing the insides of peoples houses. They are photographing the streets and outsides of peoples houses. So unless they are hopping over walls of gated communities we are talking public spaces here. I must be missing something here, cause I don't get it! I can understand inside your house is your place, but outside your house is public space. Well unless they have to drive up a private driveway to get pictures of the driveway and if that is the case, it should be marked private property.
    • by houghi (78078)

      In Europa "Privacy" means much more then just "Things done on a private property".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CraftyJack (1031736)
      I should look into copyrighting my house. Maybe I'll paint text all over it, and then copyright that.

      I must be missing something here, cause I don't get it!

      If there were a picture of my house in your personal photo albums, I would find that very weird. If I found you outside my house taking pictures of it from the street, I would feel vaguely threatened and would want to know what your motives were. If you told me that you were going to post them to make money and asserted your right to stand there taking pictures of my house, I would probably call the cops.

      • by Necron69 (35644) <[jscott.farrow] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:09PM (#31288088)

        "If you told me that you were going to post them to make money and asserted your right to stand there taking pictures of my house, I would probably call the cops."

        And in the US anyway, the cops would tell you that this is perfectly legal and to stop filing bogus complaints (or they SHOULD).

        Necron69

        • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday February 26, 2010 @03:09PM (#31289120)

          And in the US anyway, the cops would tell you that this is perfectly legal and to stop filing bogus complaints (or they SHOULD).

          Unfortunately it's been demonstrated that a lot of police aren't aware of this - hence the post-9/11 arrests of photographers taking photographs of railroad trellises, etc.

          The cases have all eventually been dismissed, but it ends up costing these people several days out of their lives just to prove they were doing something completely legal.

      • So I suppose you're also opposed to turnitin as well?

      • by Sheik Yerbouti (96423) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:21PM (#31288308) Homepage

        You may feel that way but your feelings don't give you or anyone else the right to violate the rights of others to take pictures in a public place. I am a photographer and I bristle at the suggestion you have that right. Only because a lot of cops and people post 9/11 think that for some reason they do have the right to stop someone taking photographs in a public place. And they do not. Google has a right to do this taking photographs in a public place is legal the EU as usual is harping on companies out of bounds.

        I can't believe the hipocracy what with the thousands of surveillance cameras in EU member state Great Britain. There are actually people watching those specifically to violate the privacy of UK citizens where's the outrage there?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          I can't believe the hipocracy what with the thousands of surveillance cameras in EU member state Great Britain.

          I, too, am tired of the entrenched ruling hippopotami watching our every move. We're not trying to steal your grass, you stupid river horses!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942)
        Your house is already copyrighted. It is an expression of the architectual art, and the copyright is owned by the architect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_in_architecture_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]
  • Please try to come up with something more important than this! This absolutely rediculous because publishing a photo in a newspaper could also be an infringement of privacy!

    Yes there are privacy concerns with Google, but please take some bigger issue asociated with Google than this!

    Yes I am a big fan of Google. Yes I am using their services. No, I am also concerned about privacy when it comes to Google, just as much as any other info-indexing service..

    .

    • by twidarkling (1537077) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:53PM (#31287802)

      Please try to come up with something more important than this! This absolutely rediculous because publishing a photo in a newspaper could also be an infringement of privacy!

      Except that it's consistently been held that for purposes of reporting something in the public interest is greater than an individual's privacy, and they *still* need to do due diligence in getting photographic releases for certain things. There's no news value in Google's Street View, and it's more pervasive. It's not a single picture, it's multiple pictures, angles, and setting.

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        And even newspapers and tv channels have to be careful about it if normal people are involved. For example if you publish a photograph of someone accused of some crime with his face being identifiable, and it turns out he is innocent, newspapers will be liable to pay big sums for damages. This is also why the European versions of "Cops" always have peoples faces blurred while it doesn't seem to be so in the American version.

        • by AndrewNeo (979708)

          TV shows in the US still usually have to get permission to show faces.

          • by jafiwam (310805)

            They do that for civil court reasons, not for criminal court reasons.

            It is NOT illegal to photograph someone on the street then make a profit selling the photograph. You are however, probably libel for civil damages

      • by V!NCENT (1105021)

        It is multiple angles of location, but not multiple angles of a single person. Street View is never taken at the same time as a satalite image, proving that this is not about privacy infringement of data mining of individuals, but just from locations and buildings...

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by twidarkling (1537077)

          Multiple angles of person or location doesn't matter. When an individual goes around taking multiple pictures of a building from many angles, you know what it's usually labelled? "Casing a joint." You know, gathering information for robbing it. Street View could potentially remove the need to *visit* a location before robbing it, especially with that page from a few days ago, "Please Rob Me" that links people's twitters and such to location-specific, showing when they're away from home. So yes, it's still p

          • by Hatta (162192)

            Street View could potentially remove the need to *visit* a location before robbing it

            You could make the exact same argument against maps. Publishing a map could potentially remove the need to find your way to a location before robbing it.

            especially with that page from a few days ago, "Please Rob Me" that links people's twitters and such to location-specific, showing when they're away from home. So yes, it's still privacy infringement.

            It's not privacy infringement if you choose to tell the world when you're

      • by Hatta (162192) on Friday February 26, 2010 @02:42PM (#31288688) Journal

        Except that it's consistently been held that for purposes of reporting something in the public interest is greater than an individual's privacy, and they *still* need to do due diligence in getting photographic releases for certain things. There's no news value in Google's Street View

        But there is public interest in having Street View. With street view I can check out actual pictures of the intersections and buildings near my destination, and it's that much easier to find my way around. There are really no privacy implications because you're in public anyway.

  • Do a second pass! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Extremus (1043274) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:46PM (#31287660)
    They could do two passes on places and use the double collected data in order remove people and other movable things. I think this is and practically theoretically feasible.
    • by Angst Badger (8636) on Friday February 26, 2010 @03:26PM (#31289358)

      They could do two passes on places and use the double collected data in order remove people and other movable things. I think this is and practically theoretically feasible.

      That would be harder than you think. The position of the camera could vary by several feet. If it's a windy day, you have foliage moving around. If the passes are not widely separated in time, many people would be in the same location -- cafe diners and sunbathers come to mind. If the passes are widely separated in time, then you have differences in the angle of the sun and changes in weather to take into account. It's much more difficult than taking a few pictures from a tripod over a couple of minutes and editing out pedestrians and cars.

  • Lets talk fines now

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koan (80826) on Friday February 26, 2010 @01:48PM (#31287722)

    Privacy "watch dogs" in the UK are concerned, but the 300 CCTV cameras per block aren't a problem?

    • by mosb1000 (710161)

      But that's the government, you can trust the government. Google puts the information out there for everyone to see. You can't trust the average person, that's why you need the government.

      P.S. The sarcasm is implied, but I have written this sentence to explicitly declare it.

    • No, Privacy Watchdogs in the EU are concerned. Such a basic reading comprehension should remove any "insightful" modding. The EU allows individual nations to govern themselves, but the Street View affects ALL the countries, so the EU gets to handle it as a cohesive whole. Thus, the situations are not analogous. If the UK wanted to put up CCTV cameras in France to watch UK citizens on vacation, then it'd be more closely related to Street View.

      • by koan (80826)

        Did you read the article? There is a specific line that states "Last year, privacy watchdogs in the U.K. formally complained after its introduction there", I chose to respond to that bit because the UK is notorious for "privacy abuse".

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      AMEN!

  • Surely I am not the only person living in the EU that sees Google Street Maps as a liberating technology. I have searched for countless things from my office and my home, and each time came away favourable with Street Maps. I think the EU is wrong on this one. What exactly are the dangers that they foresee with this technology?

    • Not street MAPS, street VIEW. You know? Pictures that show exactly what was present and what everything looked like at the time the van went through and snapped pictures of everything on the street.

  • Claiming public awareness is big for any company. Quite bold.

    I have a feeling the EU won't like it.

  • 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 kiddygrinder (605598) on Friday February 26, 2010 @05:50PM (#31291126)
    Google threatens to pull out of EU
  • by cheros (223479) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @08:55AM (#31296216)

    Streetview is a good tool, but with any mass data collection you need to strike a balance.

    There is nothing wrong with watching a street, but people/cars should be blurred, and that was effectively what Google promised to do, also in Switzerland, only that they didn't do it well enough, and the retention of such material must be explained.

    What I positively do NOT like about Streetview is that it offers to zoom in on windows - that really is invasive. In addition, they have the problem that they take pictures from an elevated viewpoint. I can understand why (try looking over parked cars otherwise), but people build fences for privacy, and they thus ended up with problems in privacy concious countries like Japan and Switzerland.

    As a matter of fact, I remarked at the time that I didn't find it surprising the Switzerland asked questions - I found it amazing no EU regulator had done the same. Now I know why - they weren't exposed to the issues yet. Now they are, and thankfully they are asking the same questions.

    I personally hope Google will pay attention, because addressing this intelligently would do much to address the privacy worries Google is creating. I don't think there is malice involved, it's more a culture clash, and IMHO it can be resolved with a bit of thinking.

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