back to article Google changes Street View privacy policy

Google has changed its privacy policy on its Street View feature to obscure faces and car number plates on request. Technology news site CNET reports that the company policy change took place weeks ago but has only just come to light. Street View is a Google product which consists of photographs of streets in the US. …


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  1. Stephen


    How about they blur faces/number plates and then run an opt-in scheme? Okay so it would be extremely hard to administer but why exactly do they think its okay to go around taking pictures of everywhere and putting them online.

    First they cache the internet without asking first... oh but wait they run a robots.txt scheme so thats okay... Yeah just force people to use a robots.txt scheme otherwise have all their content replicated and cached. What about indexing sites who opt-in, why should people have to opt out.

    If I started going around and kissing random people would that be okay if I said "Well you can opt-out by wearing a red scarf. So you do have the choice!".?

  2. Bez

    That's practical then

    So if you live in a Googlescanned area, you need to check everywhere you've walked or driven in order to see if you've been caught.

    What a surprise, then, that they've had so few requests for removals.

    Though I note that "the request does not have to come from the person whose face or number plate is pictured" - splendid. Someone send them an email to request that everything's deleted. Job done.

  3. Graham O'Brien

    Retail advice needed

    Where can I buy a red scarf?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love...

    I love cookie FUD...


    Cookies are small text files that can be used to track a user's activity.


    True - but they can also be used to track the user's shopping basket and there are FAR too many clueless peeps out on the interweb at large who go chucking software or toolbars on their machines that block cookies without any real understanding of what they're doing, or why. Cookies are bad, hmmmmkay?

    So what are your options as a web developer? Force people to use cookies and explain it on the site? I've had people yelling at me on the phone before, "Why should I change MY computer to get YOUR site to work!" [that example is why this is an anonymous post].

    Alternatively, URI pass the session variable... it works but you have to be careful not to leave any sensitive information available when a user's session is hijacked.


    Back on topic... it's funny how Google can obtain personal details (you getting into your car for instance) and post it on the internet without any worries about the DPA - maybe it's because they're based in the US? I suspect, although I'm by no means certain, that this could be debatable in a European Court.

    With the surveillance camera culture, are we implicitly giving permission for images of ourselves to be used on the Internet by simply leaving the house? How about if you're walkng past Nelson's Column and get snapped by a tourist? What if they post that picture on their blog?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just DO it ...

    "How about they blur faces/number plates and then run an opt-in scheme?"

    I see no logical reason for having opt-in even as an option.

    If the USA had any worthwhile data protection, google would be forced to identify and remove personal information from its streetviews -- either that, or obtain the permission of the subject. But google would not be obliged to find out who the people are, it could simply DO it as a matter of course and leave it at that.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry to disappoint you, but...

    ...taking and publishing photos of people in a public place is totally legal and you can't claim invasion of privacy if someone does it to you.

    If you could, then all the TV news stations, sports programmes and other outside broadcasts would have a lot of blank screens.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    privacy is so last century

    Although we don't agree, all our privacy is being eroded, whether by government or google or even (as i have had to deal with this week) by other people putting images of you on their facebook / myspace pages without you being a member.

    Although a little utopian, the only way we can regain control is to put the assumption of ownership with the subject (i.e. i own rights to all my data / images of me etc).

    Companies like google may be less evil than others (its yet to be seen), but they are setting precedent for other less scrupulous companies to follow suit. They are saying that they are above our concerns and we should trust them, even though they are a commercial entity and as such MUST put profit and shareholders above all else.

  8. Conway


    I should be able send them a picture of me, and my registration / house number, and tell them that I don't want them to appear on their site. They can do the checking for me as presumably they will profit in some way by publishing stuff about me.

    The fact I live in the UK, htis is not an issue at the moment, maybe I should send my mugshot anyway.

  9. Mark

    Check out this huge gallery of Google Street View privacy invasions...

    I think there will be a lot of blurring to do. Check out this huge list of Google Street View sightings:

  10. Mike Moyle

    Street photography and privacy

    First off, please believe me - I WANT to keep my privacy. I don't like government or businesses or... well... ANYONE keeping tabs on where I go, what I read, and whom I talk to.

    The problem, though, is that - unless I want to wear a disguise when I go out, anyone who cares to WILL know all of those things.


    Re: "Just DO it ...: -Anon:

    "If the USA had any worthwhile data protection, google would be forced to identify and remove personal information from its streetviews -- either that, or obtain the permission of the subject. But google would not be obliged to find out who the people are, it could simply DO it as a matter of course and leave it at that."

    Are you only insisting that commercial operations do this, or would you insist that ANYONE taking photos in a public place do so?

    Thought experiment: You take a photo of your family/friends while on vacation. Afterwards, a stranger comes up to you and saya "I was in the background of that picture that you just shot and it is an invasion of my privacy to take my picture without my permission. I insist you delete it, immediately."

    Do you:

    A - Delete the picture immediately and offer to let the person check your camera (we're assuming a digital camera, here) to see if s/he is in any other pics so you can delete them, too;

    B -Thank the stranger for coming over, whip out your handy pad of Permission Forms and politely ask that s/he sign one, authorizing the use of his her image in your offline/online family photo album, then run around getting similar waivers from everyone else who was visible in the snap, or

    C - Tell the complainant to take a flying one through a rolling doughnut because you weren't TRYING to take their picture and it's not your fault they got in the way?

    Re: "privacy is so last century" - jeremy

    "Although a little utopian, the only way we can regain control is to put the assumption of ownership with the subject (i.e. i own rights to all my data / images of me etc)."

    The assumption that the individual should own ANYTHING that might, conceivably, identify the individual - potentially to their detriment - is attractive at first but is ultimately (and perhaps counterintuitvely) hazardous to any attempt to maintain a free society.

    In the US, at least in the state where I live, the difference lies in whether you are in a place where you can REASONABLY have an assumption of privacy. For example, if someone were to take your picture among a crowd of shoppers on the sales floor of a clothing store you would, since you are out among a crowd of people (and assuming that the photographer is not stalking you, personally) have no reasonable expectation of privacy and so trhe photographer's right to shoot a picture which includes you wins. If the photographer took your picture in the dressing rooms of the store, where you WOULD have a reasoinable assumption of privacy, your right to privacy wins.

    At what point does the need to publicize items of public interest or possible wrongdoing outweigh the individual's right to privacy? A friend of mine, some years ago, got a phone call from her mother (who lived a half-dozen states away), scolding her for jaywalking that day. It seems that the Weather Channel had used footage shot by a local station's news department of a street scene showing the heavy rain in the area that day, which just happened to catch my friend (among others) crossing against the light. Her mother was checking the local forecast and caught the 10-second film clip.

    Shouild my friend have sued the cameraman, local station and TWC for invasion of privacy and public embarrassment? Or (as she did) admit that getting caught doing something dumb in public was just what can happen if you do something dumb in public?

    Should she have had the right to insist that any images of her were her property and no one else should be allowed to use them without her permission?

    What about the campus security officers caught on video tasering a student in the campus library? Should the photographer (not a member of the press - just someone who happened to be on the scene) have gotten their permission before releasing the video?

    What about the images of people running away from the falling WTC towers? Should they have the right to have their images removed, since their presence was not materially related to the event being covered - the destruction of the towers?

    At what point between these three examples would you draw the line and why?

  11. Steve Roper

    Don't use privacy to defeat freedom

    This is an example of where privacy is being turned against freedom, and those who complain about the publication of photographs in which they appear in public are contributing to the loss. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a private home, but this does NOT extend - and has NEVER extended - to being in a public place. If you are in public, you must expect to be in a photo here and there, and if you're that paranoid, stay in your damn house.

    I value my privacy, and object as strongly as anybody to government surveillance when it intrudes on that privacy, but I have no objection to people taking photographs in public and publishing them on the internet - I do it myself.

    Recently, I was questioned by a security guard while taking pictures in a city street. I explained that I was taking shots for a website promoting the city as a tourist destination, whereupon he tried to tell me stop, citing privacy law. He had to shut up and piss off when I pointed out the three webcams covering just that street, and gave him the URL of the council website that displayed them. He even checked the site on his mobile phone, and sure enough - there we were, quite recognisable, and on the Internet! These cameras are not signposted, nor are they particularly prominent. There's no substantive difference between what they put on the internet and what I put on it, except that THOSE cameras update in real time, whereas my photos are one-offs.

    Nobody ever complained about people taking photographs pre-2000, so why are people up in arms now? Don't confuse privacy and freedom; while the two are related, it's too easy to use one to eliminate the other.

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