Google is getting ready to launch their Street View technology in the UK, and it isn’t being met with open arms. Although the mapping tool is already in place in some major US cities, folks in the UK are protesting the implementation on their turf. Street View works by taking photos of, logically enough, streets to match maps. However the photos also include any people on those streets. This is where the problems come in for the UK folk. They feel this is a blatant disregard for privacy; and that permission should be granted by any individual photographed since the pictures are being used in a commercial regard.
Personally, I don’t see how Google is getting away with this. As a freelance photographer myself, I know that any photographs that I take (even in a public setting) must have release forms signed by each recognizable person in the photo, if I am to be using them in any way for profit. (They even consider a person to be “recognizable” if the photo only shows the back of them for the record.) Apparently, Privacy International, a UK rights group, agrees. They believe the technology clearly breaks data protection laws.
According to Simon Davis of the group, “In our view they need a person’s consent if they make use of a person’s face for commercial ends”.
Google has already had people in the United States complaining about their images being used as well. Google says they did remove the photos upon written request. (Amazing that they need to be asked to remove them, yet not to take them). Google also said they have begun to trial “face blurring technology”, by using an algorithm that detects human faces in photographs. However, Privacy International is having a hard time believing too much in this technology. They’ve written and asked for some more technical information on the system, and say if they don’t hear back in seven days they will ask the UK Commissioner to block the Street View tool from being used. The only response they’ve received to date from Google is a snide comment to look more closely at their blogs and that it isn’t ready to be deployed yet.
Google, on the other hand, maintains that they are complying with all local laws. Too bad people aren’t really keen on believing every word flowing out of Google’s mouth these days regarding protecting privacy. Let’s review, we had the promise made by Google to the FTC during the Doubleclick acquisition that “crumbling cookies” would be developed. No proof that this has happened yet. Then we had them promise a “privacy dashboard” to help consumers understand the functionality of their user settings in response to concerns expressed at the time of the 2007 internet privacy rankings. Nope. Hasn’t shown up either. And last, the latest fiasco with YouTube, where Google may be handing over the personal information of anyone that viewed any videos on the YouTube site to Viacom. Granted, this was due to a recent judge ruling; but members are certainly not taking this invasion well either.
It seems for all of Google wanting to claim being “for the planet” as of late, it’s a lot of “for the Google.”