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Google Addresses Street View Privacy Concerns, Removes Images Before Publication

June 24, 2009 06:00 PM
by Haley A. Lovett
Plagued by privacy concerns since Street View’s inception, Google has recently been forced by Germany to allow the public more control over its images.

Hamburg Asks Google to Delete Street View Images

In a first for its Street View service, Google has agreed to remove unblurred raw images of Germany from its internal database upon request, according to AFP. Google Street View publishes 360-degree images taken from public streets as a supplement to its Google Maps service.

In Europe, Google already uses technology to blur out faces, addresses and license plates from the photos before publishing. This new concession by Google means that, if requested, the company must remove the original unblurred photos from their unpublished database. According to MacWorld, German users can also request to have images of their homes blocked before the images are published, a request usually only allowed after the images appear online.

Google agreed to comply after Hamburg's Data Protection Agency threatened to stop allowing the Street View project to continue in Germany. According to PC World, the conflict began when Google would not tell German officials how long it intended to keep the raw images in its database.

Background of Privacy Battles Over Google Street View

In the United States, Google has enraged citizens and been taken to court over alleged invasions of privacy with its Google Street View. One couple took the company to court because images of their home had been taken from what they considered to be a private road; the couple lost the suit.

One woman in Oakland said that views of the inside of her home visible in the images captured by Google Street View were an invasion of her privacy. Others have accused Google of invading privacy by capturing images of those seeking refuge in domestic violence shelters.

Residents in one England town thought that the arrival of the Google Street View car and the resulting images of their neighborhood would invite burglars. They attempted to block the car from entering, eventually letting the vehicle pass.

The data protection agency in Greece had similar qualms with the service as Germany. According to the BBC, Greece is requesting that Google stop taking street level images of the country until the company reveals to Greek authorities how long it will store the images.

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