UK Citizens Want Google Street View Offline

Complaints about privacy breach are amassing

By on March 24th, 2009 15:06 GMT

A lot of people in the United Kingdom have filed a petition with the Information Commissioner (ICO) against Google's successful new service, Street View. They say that it infringes on their privacy, and that some images reveal information that is too sensitive to be in the public domain. Despite the fact that the giant search engine is taking as many precautions as it can, blurring people's faces and car registration numbers, there are still those who demand that the service be brought offline in the UK altogether.

The Privacy International advocacy group wants the ICO to look again into how Google's service is protecting the privacy of people, even though the national authority has given the software its official permit. “The ICO has repeatedly made clear that it believes that in Street View the necessary safeguards are in place to protect people's privacy,” Google representatives say. Thus far, more than 200 reports have been registered with the Commissioner, from people who believe that they can be identified inside the new software.

“We agree with the concerns over privacy. The way we address it is by allowing people to opt out, literally to take anything we capture that is inappropriate out, and we do it as quickly as we possibly can. We are getting controversy over street view because it is so successful. It turns out that people love to see what is going on in their local community,” Google's CEO Eric Schmidt explains in an interview for the BBC. He emphasizes the fact that the service is based on individuals' right to see the streets they could one day visit, and that the images of all the avenues depicted are in the public domain.

He also points out that the search engine is pulling out the images that have been reported as inappropriate by its users as fast as possible, and that everyone who feels that their privacy has been breached can file such a demand with the company. Schmidt also stresses that the tool is very popular, and that more and more people are logging in each day to view various locations from around the world.

“It is Google's responsibility to ensure all vehicle registration marks and faces are satisfactorily blurred. Individuals who feel that an image does identify them (and are unhappy with this) should contact Google direct to get the image removed. Individuals who have raised concerns with Google about their image being included – and who do not think they have received a satisfactory response – can complain to the ICO,” a release of the Information Commissioner reveals.

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