Information Commissioner greenlights Street View
23 April 2009
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled that Google’s controversial Street View service does not invade individual’s privacy.
Google’s Street View service – available as part of its Google Maps product – shows street-level photographs of major UK cities. Privacy International filed a complaint about Street View on the basis that the service had caused ‘distress and embarrassment’ to some individuals identified in the Street Level views.
Google Street View ‘common sense’
However, the ICO has issued a statement saying that ‘common sense’ must prevail and ruled that the service does not breach the UK’s Data Protection Act
David Evans, senior data protection practice manager, said: ‘As a regulator we take a pragmatic and common sense approach. Any images of people’s faces or number plates should be blurred. We emphasised the importance of blurring these images to protect people’s privacy and limit privacy intrusion. Google must respond quickly to deletion requests and complaints as it is doing at the moment. We will be watching closely to make sure this continues to be achieved in practice.’
Self-regulation ‘doesn’t work’ claim
Critics, however, say that this type of self-regulatory approach doesn’t work. ‘I’m not happy about leaving this [Street View] to a system of self-regulation. For example, what happens if Google doesn’t remove an image they’re requested to?’ said Yaman Akdeniz, a spokesperson for Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties.
Google, however, says it is pleased with the ICO’s decision: ‘We took care to build privacy considerations into Street View from the outset and have engaged with the ICO throughout the development process. Already millions of British people have benefited from Street View, whether to get driving directions, find local businesses, or explore a tourist destination. We recognise that a small minority of people may not wish their house to be included in the service, which is why we have created easy to use removals tools,’ says a company statement.
Residents in Milton Keynes previously attempted to stop a Google Street car photographing their street.