Google U.K. Street View Runs Into Privacy Issues - InformationWeek

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3/23/2009
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Google U.K. Street View Runs Into Privacy Issues

The company over the weekend found itself denying that it had published Street View images depicting naked children.

Google insists that the article by the Independent on Sunday -- which said Google had removed hundreds of images from its U.K. Street View database, including pictures depicting a naked child, people leaving sex shops, and people vomiting on the street -- was flawed and that the paper had committed to a correction.

"The photographs in this case were not revealing," said D-J Collins, Google's director of communication and public affairs for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, in a blog post. "They showed a typical family picnic in a public park on a summer's day, with children playing."

Collins stresses that the Street View images were taken last year and that the child in question, while visible at the highest zoom level, was blurred because of the low resolution, was not facing the camera, and could not be identified.

"Nevertheless, we take issues around inappropriate content in our products very seriously, and we removed the images within an hour of being notified," Collins' post continues. "For us, privacy and user choice remain paramount."

By choice, Google means the onus is upon those photographed to ask to be removed from Google's Street View image database, just as those whose copyrights have been violated on YouTube must ask to have infringing videos removed.

Google is also on the defensive in Italy, where four Google executives, including the company's global privacy counsel, are on trial for violating Italy's privacy law for a video posted to Google Video.

The judge in that case last week rejected an attempt by Google's legal representatives to challenge the plaintiff's standing. Later this week, the judge will review whether his court has jurisdiction.

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