UK campaigners demand Google Street View closure
Google’s latest offering has led to many complaints and a formal demand to Britain’s information commissioner to take the service offline
The fallout from Google's launch of its Street View service in Britain continues, with privacy campaigners submitting a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and demanding that the service be temporarily taken offline.
Privacy International (PI) lodged its action against the internet search engine citing the "clear embarrassment and damage" the system was causing.
Before Google was able to roll out the UK version of the service, which attracted similar complaints in the US when it launched there in 2007, it had to assure information commissioner Richard Thomas that faces and car registration plates would be blurred. But since last week's British launch, PI claims it has been contacted by many people who have been clearly identified by the service.
The Pentagon banned Street View from publishing pictures of US military bases
Images that have caused concern include one of a woman who had moved to escape a violent partner who was subsequently recognised on Street View, and a photograph of two work colleagues captured in an apparently compromising position by Google's cameras. Embarrassing shots of people exiting sex shops or vomiting on the street have also appeared.
Google is putting up a robust defence, claiming that "the ICO has repeatedly made clear that it believes that in Street View the necessary safeguards are in place to protect people's privacy", But Simon Davies of PI says the service should be taken offline until an investigation is carried out. He says Google's claims that its face-recognition technology would only lead to a "few misses" was clearly a "gross underestimation".
The service has been dogged by privacy issues. The US Department of Homeland Security delayed the launch of the service for the Washington area to check that it wasn't identifying any security-sensitive 'targets' in the nation's capital, while the Pentagon banned Street View from publishing pictures of US military bases.
One man who need not worry about his privacy being disturbed is Google UK boss Dennis Woodside, whose home in Kensington, west London, has escaped the prying eye of the Google cars – because he lives in a private gated community.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:Ruaridh Nicoll, Guardian: Someone will be caught out soon, but this won't make Google's achievement any less. Our bad behaviour is not its responsibility. The revealing image is not new. Think of all those employees who called in sick only to be spotted on telly at Wimbledon. Even before photography, life was never entirely private. Samuel Pepys was busted making love on a north London common by a passer-by.
Ross Clark, Independent: If I were a burglar, I don't think I would use Google Street View. The images are not live – they were taken at some indeterminate time within the past year – and so provide no opportunity for the reconnaissance of a property. Moreover, Google keeps a permanent record of all searches performed upon it - a dead giveaway if you are revealed to have been homing in on Acacia Avenue a few days before houses there were burgled. ·
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