Google's Street View is a very useful feature but there have been some privacy concerns and it has seen a certain amount of criticism from government officials around the world and especially in Europe. Recently, data protection officials in Germany have questioned Google's Practices and have asked for some clarifications. While the talks between the two parties aren't over, Google has decided to offer a few details as to how the whole process works and its views on some of the issues.
“We pre-empted many of the different requirements and concerns and proactively introduced privacy enhancing technologies, namely industry-leading face and license plate blurring, and made it easy to flag inappropriate images for removal,” reads the post on Google's European Policy blog.
The Mountain View-based company has been working together with Article 29 Working Party, a group that brings representatives from all 27 European Data Protection Authorities. One of the first things that the group asked of Google was an advanced warning in the countries where the Street View team would deploy next. The search giant has already been doing that in the countries where the service will be available next but a precise moment when the Street View cars will drive through a particular region is hard to pinpoint as it is very dependent on things like weather, traffic and lighting conditions, which, obviously, the company has no control over.
The other major issue was for how long Google could keep unprocessed, 'raw' images on its servers before they would be deleted. The search giant deploys a powerful automated technology to blur faces and number plates before the photos are released to the public. However it keeps the raw images coming from the Street View cars even after they have been processed to improve its software. This is because the software running the automated blurring is by no means perfect and Google relies on user feedback to improve it. By having the original photo as well as the processed ones, the company developers will be able to see where the software made an error and easily fix it. This practice has been the major issue with European Authorities but Google is determined to meet all of the requirements while still improving its software.