Google's Street View Gets Mixed Transatlantic Reception

Dennis Faas's picture

Google's Street View mapping system has got the go-ahead from regulators in the United Kingdom, but is continuing to cause legal problems in the US.

The system involves taking photographs of streets in major cities around the world. Unlike the better-known Google Earth system, these are not satellite images; instead photographers take shots from a standing position. This allows Google to produce maps which are more human-eye than bird's-eye.

Britain's Information Commissioner had been asked to investigate the project after complaints it could be a threat to privacy because people might be included in the photos without their permission or knowledge.

However, Google told the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) that it had a policy of blurring faces and car licence plates. The firm also pointed out there was a delay between taking and publishing the shots, meaning it couldn't be used to track people's movement.

The ICO agreed these safeguards were adequate. Though Google has already begun taking shots in the UK, there's still no firm date for a launch for Street View. (Source:

Back in the United States, an ongoing case follows a Pennsylvania couple suing Google for including pictures of their home on the Street View site. They are particularly irritated that a Google-commissioned vehicle entered their private driveway to take the shots.

Google has already removed the pictures and says it would have done so if asked, with no need for legal action. It says it has an established policy for removing photographs of private properties upon request.

Privacy campaigners have slammed Google for comments it made in court documents for the case, stating "complete privacy doesn't exist". To highlight the issue, the National Legal and Policy Center has released a document with pictures showing the home of a Google executive, complete with license numbers of his vehicles. All the photographs are taken from Google's mapping sites. (Source:

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