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Darren Waters

Google, privacy and Street View

  • Darren Waters
  • 4 Jul 08, 08:50 GMT

As soon as Google launched Street View, its innovative photo-mapping tool, people began complaining that their privacy had been compromised.

From the man walking out of a sex shop, to the sun-bathing girls - had Google compromised their privacy by taking photographs of streets that also captured people going about their daily lives?

Street ViewThe tool launches in the UK soon and the cars which drive up and down streets taking snaps have been spotted on the streets of London.

But will Street View in the UK fall foul of data protection laws? Simon Davies, of Privacy International, believes that Google needs to get permission from people who are snapped on Street View, because the tool is being used for commercial ends.

You can read more here.

Google has taken a lot of flak recently over its privacy policies, with warnings from European Information Commissioners and complaints its privacy policy is hidden.

Google has taken at least one step to address concerns; placing a link to its privacy policy on its homepage. Is this enough of a step?

Simon Davies has written to Google outlining his concerns. It makes for interesting reading.

So take a look for yourself. Here it is:

2nd July 2008

Jane Horvath,
Senior privacy counsel,
Google
Mountainview CA

Dear Jane,

Recent media reports in Europe have mentioned that Google has begun deployment of its StreetView system in the UK and elsewhere in the EU. You may be aware that Privacy International has stated, both privately to Google legal staff and to the media, that we are concerned about a number of potential violations of national law that this technology may create.

In response, Google has informed the media that it will institute "face blurring" technology to ensure legal compliance. However, when we requested information from Google six weeks ago about the specifications for this technology your colleagues admitted that there were problems with it at an engineering level.

We are concerned that claims of protection are being made that may not be possible to institute. I am writing to request full disclosure of the technology specifications for the promised face and number plate blurring system so that the public can be assured that Google has taken every step necessary to satisfy not just legal requirements, but that it is also fulfilling its stated commitments.

We have in the past raised concerns directly with Google that such claims have historically failed to materialise. I recall the promise made by Google to the FTC during the Doubleclick acquisition that "crumbling cookies" would be developed. We have seen no evidence that this technology has been deployed. In response to concerns expressed at the time of our 2007 Internet privacy rankings, Google also promised a "privacy dashboard" to help consumers understand the functionality of their user settings. This technology has not appeared.

You will know that we have often complained that Google performs poorly on the issue of transparency. I believe this is one occasion where disclosure is crucial. Public trust in Google will suffer if there is a perception that the company is manipulating the facts.

I ask that you respond with this technical information within seven days. I also ask that you inform us of the steps, if any, that you have taken to consult the public over the use of their images for what is, in effect, a commercial purpose.

If we do not receive a satisfactory answer within that period we will have no choice but to lodge a complaint with the UK Information Commissioner with a request that StreetView deployment be suspended pending a formal investigation.

Yours sincerely

Simon Davies
Director
Privacy International

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It might make interesting reading, but there's no basis in law for that at all. If the camera is on public property it can snap what it likes, and long may that continue.

  • Comment number 2.

    En route to my office in Victoria this morning I saw a Google camera car pulled over to the side of the road approaching Parliament Square, just by Horseguards Parade being closely examined by two uniformed police officers. Perhaps the backlash has already started?

  • Comment number 3.

    Privacy international seem to show a poor understanding on the laws of both privacy and photography in the UK. It is good practice to obtain consent but it is not a legal requirement as long as the photograph is taken on public property. How would the paparazzi operate if it were?

  • Comment number 4.

    Loads of misinformation in the comments already.

    Whilst you can snap what you like on public property in the UK, you do not necessarily have the right to publish those images.

    The paparazzi can get away with photographing people because the images are used editorially. The same cannot be said for Google's tawdry website.

  • Comment number 5.

    Erm. I'm pretty sure the law in the UK means, as long as the camera, and you, are on public accessible property (ie the streets and roads and shopping centres when they are open) they can pretty much take photos of whatever they like!

    What a non-story.

  • Comment number 6.

    Far from there being 'problems' with the face blurring technology Google have implemented it (and licence plate blurring') in Street View.

    The big news is not that the Street View car has been spotted in the UK but that Google have actually released Street View in France.

    Simon Davies might want to have a little look at the success of face blurring in that. Face blurring was actually introduced two weeks ago in all Street Views. So I really can't see the point in Simon Davies' letter except to try and stir up some publicity for his own organisation.

  • Comment number 7.

    Comment No 4 was right

    Comment No 6 = Must be a Google employee surely ??

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry one more point.

    In your article you say that "Google has taken at least one step to address concerns; placing a link to its privacy policy on its homepage."

    In fact Google have done far more than that. Every 'Street View' has a link to report the image. Here is what it says on every street view,

    "Report Inappropriate Image
    Google takes concerns about its services very seriously. Please use the link below to report concerns about an inappropriate street view."

  • Comment number 9.

    keirclarke = definite google employee

  • Comment number 10.

    What a lot of silly fuss. Surely a much better idea than all this hullabaloo would be for Google to offer a small fee to people who can recognise themselves in Street View scenes. After all, they are being used as "models". You would get people clamouring to be included!

  • Comment number 11.

    Ha! No, but I am biased. I run a site that catalogues interesting street views.

    Too that end I have spent too many hours in the last 24 hours walking virtually around Paris in Google Maps street view.

    So no I'm not a Google employees but yes I am biased.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hmm. Just a storm in a tea cup? For the moment maybe. Microsoft has always been the big bad wolf and yet it's the good guys at Apple and Google who it seems we should start worrying about.

  • Comment number 13.

    electroriverside - I couldn't agree more. Google have incredible amounts of data on everyone who uses their services. A US judge ordered them a few days ago to hand over data on all YouTube users and all the videos they have watched.

    TechCrunch have called on Google to turn down that request and that senior executives should risk going to jail to protect the privacy of their users. I wonder if they really are prepared to face a jail sentence to protect privacy.

    Now there is a privacy issue worth getting concerned about.

  • Comment number 14.

    I've just had a look at Street View in Paris, and all number plates are successfully blurred, and you can't make out peoples faces either

    It looks to me like some silly organisation is after publicity, and is trying to prevent innovation with either outdated laws, or by scaring the public

    Imagine Street View on some future Sat Nav device or even a phone based on the Android platform.

    Google keep copying other companies ideas and adpating them for the mass market, well done... when's it coming to Loughborough?

  • Comment number 15.

    We have heard several times that the UK has the most CCTV cameras per person.

    Why are we happy for unknown 'authorized persons' to watch us (as potential criminals), but protest when Google wants to share the images with us (as in all of us, the public).

    The benefits of Google street view are enormous. I use it when I travel to a city in the US to get a feel for the place and find where the shops are.

    I have no objection to images take in public IF they are shared with everyone so we all can see (which is what Google are doing).

    Google will take one set of images of each street, and are concentrating on the street.

    The CCTV cameras take a continuous stream of video all day every day, concentrate on (and actually follow) people, and in most cases we (the people) are not allowed to know about or see what is stored on the tapes.

    If you find an embarrassing image of yourself on Google street view, you can ask them to blur it.

    If there is an embarrassing or incriminating image of you on one of the thousands of hours of CCTV tapes, you won't know it exists, you won't be able to find it or see it, and you won't be able to get it removed or redacted ... but if it really is embarrassing or incriminating, it is a good bet that someone will have seen it, noted it, stored it and possibly shared it with a few others.

  • Comment number 16.

    Surly you don't need StreetView in the US to find out where the shops are?

    Whilst there are loads of CCTV cameras in the UK it is an offense under the DPA those images aren't generally posted onto a public website.

  • Comment number 17.

    Actually, given that the cat is out of the bag, and people know they are doing this. I'm surprised that the streets of London aren't full of students and kids in silly costumes chasing every likely looking grey van they can find.

    Hey kids - I offer you a challenge. See how many times you can get yourself into the Google street view images !!! Extra points for outrageous costumes :-)

  • Comment number 18.

    As an above comment stated, we are constantly watched by unknown people for unknown reasons, why on earth is this a problem?

    I would rather be accidently captured on a usefull and innovative service than purposefully captured by uknown people with no idea how the images are used. Also why do paperazzi and papers have the right to make money "editorially" yet other industries are not? I think it is fair to say that streetview is more use to the public than the latest shot of beckham with a new haircut.

    Also are the police not capturing private images without our consent and for commercial ends by using speed cameras?

  • Comment number 19.

    "Surly you don't need StreetView in the US to find out where the shops are?"

    You can get an address from maps, but it can be useful to look on street view to find landmarks to recognize when you are walking.

    If someone says "meet us at the coffee bar on the corner, next to the shop with the big red sign", you can look at street view to see what they mean.

    If a hotel offers a 'view of the sea' you can check to see if it is a view of the beach ... or an old run down wharf with a junk yard.

    On the map it may look like to hotel is five minutes away from the conference centre, but street view may show you that it is down a dark alley and across a busy main road with no pedestrian crossings for half a mile.

  • Comment number 20.

    John_Lilburne is wrong. There is no general prohibition on taking and publishing photos in public, including ones that include identifiable individuals. This is a well worn area of law, and hasn't changed in a long time. Photographers have been increasingly getting hassled for exercising their rights, but they still have them, whether they're an amateur, a professional, or a Google car. There's a neat summary of the law, and a link to details of Austin Mitchell MP's recent EDM on the subject here:
    http://www.sirimo.co.uk/ukpr.php

    (if that gets stripped be the BBC, simply google for 'uk photographers rights' and follow the first result.

  • Comment number 21.

    Interesting stuff - I did see a google maps car out and about in Leeds the other day, and wondered if this was what was underway.

  • Comment number 22.

    Whilst I have deep concerns about Google's attitude towards privacy and their apparent reluctance to be more open about their policy (apparently, they won't even include a link on their 'iconic' homepage for fear of sullying it), I cannot see the difference between being snapped by Google; a press photographer; a professional photographer, who then exhibits their work; or a holidaymaker, who uploads their snaps to Flickr for all to see.

    With the exception of the last group, all of these could be argued to gain commercially from their photographs.

    But the scale of the project, the fact that Google is behind it, coupled with the fact that there are more devices than ever, which are able to record more than just a moment in time, but build up a picture of our lives and our movements, mean it is right that this should come under scrutiny and we should not just blindly walk into it.

    It should serve as a basis for discussion on privacy matters and what seems like its constant erosion.

  • Comment number 23.

    I live in East London and have spotted the Google camera cars 3-4 weeks ago so it is incorrect they have just started. Black Peugeot with a roof mounted camera and a google sign on the dashboard, can't miss them.

    Personally I would prefer not to have my image taken, any street photographer using images for non editorial has to have a release form, but if blurring works then this service seems inevitable.

  • Comment number 24.

    "Whilst there are loads of CCTV cameras in the UK it is an offense under the DPA those images aren't generally posted onto a public website."

    Technically, you are right. But the information *will* be looked at (by someone you don't know), stored, cataloged and possibly tagged by face recognition for future use.

    As you quite rightly say, the current law is that the CCTV images are kept secret and are not open to the public. But that means that you can't see them either (not easily anyway). You don't know what the images contain, you don't know how, where, or for how long they are stored.

    It depends on whether you believe in, and trust, the "authorities" (now and in the future) to look after us on our behalf and in our best interests.

    Given that the images were taken in public places anyway, on behalf of our security, I would prefer that the resulting images were open to the public too.

    We live in an increasingly watched society, with more and more CCTV cameras and other surveillance technologies. I don't think we can, or should, try to stop it.

    However, we do have a choice about how the information is used.

    We can either give up, and allow the "authorities" complete discretion over how and when we are watched, and what happens to the information.

    Or, we can choose a more open system where we can all see what is being watched and what is being done with the information.

    The current system splits our society into 'the watched' and the 'watchers' - those who do have access to the information, and those that don't.
    I would prefer a more equal society, where we can all see what is going on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sousveillance
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equiveillance

    Which way we go is our choice.

    You may trust the current authorities to act on your behalf, with your best interests in mind, but the images taken now will be stored for a long time.

    Are you absolutely sure that the "authorities" in 20 or 30 years time will be equally benevolent. Because if not, we will be handing them a read made surveillance society with 30 years of records to look through (using data mining technologies we haven't even imagined yet).

  • Comment number 25.

    To get back on topic - can someone post a picture of what the Google camera vans look like ?

    I for one plan to dress up in a silly costume and see if I can find one :-)

  • Comment number 26.

    @Philip_Reverse_it - (at the risk of being accused of working for Google again) - as Darren points out in the article Google do now have a link to their privacy policy on their home page.

    Better late than never.

  • Comment number 27.

    @24 Zarquan:

    Interesting point - so it boils down to: do you want everyone to ALWAYS and EASILY have ALL the information about you, or just some people (i.e. those in authority) to POTENTIALLY have CONTROLLED access to that information?

    Your concern is that authorities may abuse that information, but I don't think the potential for abuse is less by making the information even more accessible by everyone. I mean, just for example, would you want your boss checking out the camera near your home to see if you were picking your nose in the car?

    Ultimately, you're asking whether you trust the authorities to not view / disclose potentially sensitive or private information about you; so you solve nothing by proposing to always disclose everything!

  • Comment number 28.

    @keirclarke (#26) - so I see. I take that back. My fault for scanning Darren's post. :$

  • Comment number 29.

    In none of the photos shown in the Telegraph article you link to could I make out the faces of the people shown. Or make the car number plates. Having looked at some existing StreetViews of American cities it does look as if car number plates have been blurred. Personally I`m not that bothered should I be caught on camera, CCTV or otherwise.

    I am slightly uneasy about property being shown in StreetView. A different issue I know, but it could be useful to potential burglars (I’m also uneasy about children being shown for similar reasons). Then again homebuyers may appreciate seeing the street and house without having to travel many miles.

    I’m against Google adding Privacy to its Homepage on usability grounds. But it could add Privacy to its More drop down list. To those with privacy concerns: Don’t use the Internet, a phone of any kind or a credit/debit card. I guess it all started with the Domesday Book; that must have really freaked out the Saxons!

  • Comment number 30.

    StreetView is the birth of the matrix.

  • Comment number 31.

    you can of course be a little more pro-active than that by simply wrighting to Google and refusing to give them consent to have yourself appear on any of their Street View maps.

    Google will have to comply and be able to deomnstrate it has taken action to enforce your request.

    Data Protection laws also mean children should also be exempt from appearing without the explicit consent of the parent/guardian. The same is the case of personally identifiable information like car number plates.

    I'm all for new innovative ways to navigate and view content but we can't simply allow a big multi-billion power house to ignore laws that apply to the rest of us. I don't care if it's costing millions to make this happen or if it will improve our economy - the law is the law and that's that.

    If Google are allowed to bypass it than quite frankly what is to stop me taking pictures of strangers on the street and posting them on web?

  • Comment number 32.

    @27 SilverCapo

    "would you want your boss checking out the camera near your home to see if you were picking your nose in the car?"

    An interesting example.
    The obvious answer to that *specific* question is no.

    But it isn't that simple.

    If the camera is in the office car park, then it (and the information it gathers) is owned by the company, and available to people sufficiently high up in the company to qualify as "authorized".

    So if you and Sandra from accounts were caught on camera kissing in the car park, your boss would have access to the images.
    He would not need to publish the images, just knowing that you and Sandra may be having a relationship would give him a political advantage.
    e.g. If he wanted to transfer to a team that you didn't want to join, by placing Sandra in the same team he may be able to influence you without you being aware of it.

    But if your boss was caught on camera passing a brown envelope of cash to someone from accounts, you would not have access to the images. If he is aware that the camera is there are what it records, if he has sufficient authorization, he could review the images and remove any incriminating records of his activities.

    So, re-phrasing the question, I would ask you :

    Given that your boss already has access to the images from the car park cameras, and can use the information to his/her advantage. Are you happy with this, or would you want equal access to the same information ?

  • Comment number 33.

    @31 what is to stop me taking pictures of strangers on the street and posting them on web?

    Nothing. See any of the many 'Street Photography' groups on flickr, for example.

    Several people have referred to requiring modelling releases for commercial use - this is something that's necessary in the US, but it isn't here. Many commercial photographers in the UK may ask for releases anyway since it simplifies the sale of images to US based customers, but they're not actually required here.

  • Comment number 34.

    @27 SilverCapo

    "would you want your boss checking out the camera near your home to see if you were picking your nose in the car?"

    It wouldn't matter if I could check out the camera next to the wine bar and get an image of my boss looking very ill after a long 'business meeting' that lasted to 2am.

    Who cares. We are all human, we all get drunk or pick our noses or scratch our bums. All of us, we are all scruffy grey faced bum scratching nose picking humans, and we need to accept that and live with it.

    If someone did have a snapshot of me picking my nose, what are they going to do with it ? In an open society, showing it to others would demean them more than me.

    It only has value if they can use it to embarrass me without the danger of me responding in kind.

    If we all have access to the same information (e.g. it is posted on Google street view for all to see), then it looses its value and no one has an unfair advantage over anyone else.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think anybody talking about 'privacy' when they are out in a public place is absurd! I, as others have said, would much rather have a photo of myself in Google Maps that I can see, laugh at and show family and friends than secretly recorded CCTV footage that I don't know about.

    And I can't help but wonder what 'naughty' and 'exciting' things the people who are complaining are getting up to as they walk to the shops for a loaf of bread that they don't want the rest of us to see! Enquiring minds need to know. ;-)

  • Comment number 36.

    @27 SilverCapo

    "Ultimately, you're asking whether you trust the authorities to not view / disclose potentially sensitive or private information about you ; so you solve nothing by proposing to always disclose everything!"

    I'm not concerned about the authorities we have now, nor what they might or might not view or disclose now. It is the amount of data that will be available to the authorities we may have in 20 or 30 years time and the potential uses of that information in the future.

    I found this discussion interesting because people were concerned about pictures of us (the public) being seen by us (the public) on the internet, but seemed to accept (undisclosed) authorized personnel recording CCTV images of us (the public) with much less disclosure about what is recorded and how it is used.

    The results of Google street view are public, and only shows static images of a single snapshot in time. I work in IT, developing large scale data storage and data mining tools for a science project and the technologies for collecting and analyzing this type of information are improving rapidly. I can quite easily imagine a similar street view system (for authorized eyes only) that records live images from all of the CCTV cameras in a city, complete coverage 24/7, with the ability to automatically identify and follow a single individual as they move through a crowd. I don't think we have a choice about whether such a system will exist. I think it is inevitable.

    My own feeling is that if we pretend it isn't happening, try to restrict it, or put legal limits on who can see it and what they are allowed to do with it, we would be fooling ourselves.
    Looking 10 or 20 years into the future I see three choices.

    a) No surveillance at all
    b) Ubiquitous surveillance, open to all
    c) Ubiquitous surveillance, controlled by a few

    I don't think a) is an option any more, it is already happening.
    Option c) potentially puts a *lot* of power in the hands of a few.
    For me, option b) seems to be the most pragmatic.

    If we decide we want option c) then we need to do a *lot* of thinking about what the system is allowed to do, who is allowed to use it, and what they are allowed to use it for.

    Interestingly, I haven't seen anyone mention webcams in this discussion yet.
    A quick Google for 'london webcam' found these :
    http://www.camvista.com/england/london/trafsq.php3
    http://www.abbeyroad.com/visit/
    http://www.streamdays.com/camera/view/oxford-street-london

    So a question to all those raising objections to Google street view.
    I'm curious, why are these webcams acceptable and Google street view isn't ?

  • Comment number 37.

    @Zarquan - your fancy dress idea is a great one.

    If the vans stood still long enough, you might even be able to organise a flash mob.

  • Comment number 38.

    @Philip

    Indeed lots of fun and crazy things we could do :-)

    Particularly if we could predict which street they were going to go down next. Assuming they go up one street and down the next, you could have people waving placards that spelled out a rude message if you put them together in the right sequence :-)

    However, I did think of one slightly sneaky and probably less fun idea.

    What would Google do if a well known rival search engine and software supplier were to guess which city they were going to do next, buy up all the advertising space they could and plaster the place with large and colourful advertisements for their particular brand of search engine and software products.

  • Comment number 39.

    It's interesting how many people still don't know the law about taking photographs in public places.

    I worked for a public body relatively recently and my Director didn't believe me when I explained that unless specifically excluded by statute there is a general right to take photographs of people in the street or other genuinely "public" place and no permission from the subject or release for commercial use is required under UK law. Even when I offered to provided her with the evidence she didn't want to accept that.

    These rights are of course constrained in certain circumstances and there are various specific exceptions (eg Aitports, other sensitive security locations, etc.) , but the general principle still applies.

    And it may be an invasion of prvacy to take a photograph of someone on a private location (eg their home) from a public one, if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    And the police, bouncers, security staff have NO right to confiscate your film, digital cards or exquipment or require you to delete images taken in a public place. Not that that deters them, of course...

    Of course, in a private location such as a museum or a shopping centre this does not apply. Security staff rarely understand the difference.

    Readers may not like this, but it is the law unless and until Parliament changes it.

    I also recommend looking at http://www.sirimo.co.uk/ukpr.php

  • Comment number 40.

    Why do Privacy International think the contentious issue is "commercial use" of the images?

    Does that then mean that they think that non-commercial use of stuff on Flickr et al
    is all fine and dandy? Are they equating that with "domestic use" (as allowed by Section 36 of the much-maligned - and generally misunderstood - Data Protection Act?).

  • Comment number 41.

    Personally, I think privacy international should pay more attention to the way the UK government is refusing to deal with the illegal interceptions of an estimated 100,000 customers of BT's during their trials of the phorm websnooping system.

    No, far better to go for the easy target than a government playing pass the idiot with the people they are supposed to work for (that'd be us, the citizens) so that a system of which a number of government workers have investments with gets pushed ahead regardless of the outrage it so rightly generates.

    And yet the BBC still won't do any real reporting on this issue and sticks to copy pasting the PR announcements of the ex-spyware company called phorm (they used to be known as 121 media).

    More FUD to distract us from the real concerns.

  • Comment number 42.

    what a load of balony. If this claim that showing people on the street requires personal permission... how the hell can the BBC, ITV etc do reports located in the street, with passers by in clear view.

    It is non-sense, great launch for google street view.

    I note a report that a google van was pulled by the police in Horse Guards, under what law can the old bill pull them over?

    The War on Terror perhaps?

  • Comment number 43.

    Folks,
    read the letter and you will see that they are not saying Google is wrong in what it is doing. They have doubts and past experiences lead them to believe Google do not keep their word (there may be reasons for this i.e. not required by law to do so)

    However, there is one point at the core of the story here. The privacy group want assurances from Google that privacy laws (whatever they are) are not broken.

    For privacy to be at risk personal information (personally identifable data, pictures of identifiable people, number plates etc) must be viewable.

    If as Google state they will (or have) implemented systems to ensure these privacies (and other associated laws such tresspass etc) are protected then they do not fall foul of any law and Google are free to proceed.

    I have just tried the technology and think it is fantastic.

    However within 5 minutes I have seen personally identiable faces. The blurring is obvious but in the cases I have seen (shopping Mall in Boca Raton) the blurring happens below the neck line of the security guard.

    Other images are well and truly blurred.

    The security guard appears to be an African American gentleman and it may be that the picture blurring is not as effective on darker skin (just guessing here). Many other pictures of whiter skinned folk appear to have been blurred quite well.

    I think google have a hard job here but they have a responsibility to get it right and take due care. If I can find this in 5 minutes one would wonder how much care has been expended by Google.

    I suspect (but have no evidence to confirm this) that the face blurring was an afterthought rather than part of the original design.

  • Comment number 44.

    A very silly non-story.

    It is far more important that people have the free right to take pictures of what we like. As has been mentioned if we required permission for the use of every image the whole of news broadcasting and journalism would crash over night.

    The police of losing the plot and think they can make laws on the spot regarding our right to take photos.

    Now some little Napoleon wants to make a name for himself by taking a pop at google and it is being past off as news..

  • Comment number 45.

    #43

    There IS no privacy law in the UK relating to everyday activities in a public place. "Due care" as you put it does not apply.

    Whether the faces are identifiable or not is irrelevant in law.

    As is whether the company have in the past not kept their word in other situations.

    So long as they don't break the law, there is nothing anyone can do. The letter is just posturing.

    It may be an invasion of privacy to take a photograph of someone on a private location (eg their home) from a public one, if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. And as I understand it there is no suggestion that the company concerned have been doing this.

    Whether this "morally" aceeptable or good commercial policy are different questions, of course...

  • Comment number 46.

    Why are Privacy International making such a song and dance about photography in a public place, which is perfectly legal in the UK?
    BT/Phorm illegally intercepted customers' data during trials in 2006 and 2007 and intend to introduce this system later this year in order to make money from our data. So far Privacy International, the organisation one would have expected to speak out in opposition, has been silent on the subject

  • Comment number 47.

    OMG - do we need a war or something to calm people down? There seems to be way too much time on some people's hands to bitch and moan about everything and anything. The real issues of the day seem to be overlooked by people just looking for something to attack. Are they really concerned? I don't think so

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    Privacy International - weren't they the people who were quoted as supporting the BT/Phorm data interceptions? Then, when there was a fuss, it was 'only' Privacy International's founder (and current director), Simon Davies, who supported the bulk transfer of BT customers' Internet access to a spyware company. Why on earth do you treat this company as having any credibility? Because they have an impressive sounding name?

  • Comment number 51.

    I think that this Simon character, who appears to have invented a company just to give himself a job has lost the plot. He is arguing that taking a picture in public with people in it as a coincidence (as opposed to deliberately targeting an individual or individuals) and using it for commercial gain is an invasion of privacy. As I understand, you cannot take a photo of an unknown individual deliberately, no matter what the circumstances, without their permission, if they are the subject of the picture. However, if they are in the general area, then it's fair game.

    I can only assume that he will be trying to get postcards banned too? Thought not.

    Perhaps he's shorting some shares on Google for a quick profit?

  • Comment number 52.

    Anyway, surely the people who are so concerned about being photographed on the street without warning are simply up to something they don't want their parents/kids/other halves/friends/the law to find out about? ;-)

  • Comment number 53.

    _Ewan_ wrote "John_Lilburne is wrong. There is no general prohibition on taking and publishing photos in public, including ones that include identifiable individuals."

    I suggest that you re-read the link you posted, in particular the comments section where Linda Macpherson answers questions on the publishing of photos.

    Whilst taking photos for personal use is OK, when you make those photos available to the general public, your use is no longer personal.

    By analogy consider the case of recording a TV program: you can watch it in the comfort of your home, with a couple of friends, that is personal use. You cannot stream it on your website, that is non-personal use.

    In the particular case of Google, where they are automatic recording images and using them for commercial purposes, their use is very much non-personal, nor is it done for artistic purposes, as such the DPA is in full force.

  • Comment number 54.

    @53, John

    "In the particular case of Google, where they are automatic recording images and using them for commercial purposes, their use is very much non-personal, nor is it done for artistic purposes, as such the DPA is in full force."

    So what implications does this have for live webcams like these ?

    http://www.camvista.com/england/london/trafsq.php3
    http://www.abbeyroad.com/visit/
    http://www.streamdays.com/camera/view/oxford-street-london

    Is it just a question of camera pixel resolution ?
    In a few years time, webcams will be capable of much higher resolution ....

  • Comment number 55.

    The terms of this debate appear to be changing...

    http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=801977

    The Home Secretary appears to be empowering the policeman in the street to decide who and what is allowed to be photographed.

  • Comment number 56.

    "Is it just a question of camera pixel resolution ?"

    A major element is whether a person is recognizable. Another element is whether the images are archived. Its one thing to have something take a photo that is only available for a few seconds, quite another to have it accessible many days later, where it can be passed around the office, pub, or school yard.

  • Comment number 57.

    I don't see a leg to stand on with the pictures taken in public. What we DON"T need is yet another group deciding what we need or don't need.

  • Comment number 58.

    After looking at the maps, I agree that the resolution is not high enough for any kind of person to be distinguished from the next.

    The only way to possibly be identified would be if you were blessed with super powers - spiderman could complain, his secret identity would be blown...

    Though seriously I firmly disagree with this development, it breaches our basic right for anonymity.

  • Comment number 59.

    @56

    "A major element is whether a person is recognizable. "
    Isn't that a bit of a hazy (no pun intended) definition for the law ?

    Who decides 'whether a person is recognizable' ?
    Does it make a difference if the viewer already knows the person involved (is being recognized by Joe Public different to being recognized by family and friends) ?

    Would it be based on the ability of a human viewer to recognize the subject ... or a computer ?

    What if a webcam revealed other information that could be used to recognize someone ?

    A quick Google for 'image recognition walking gait' found these :
    http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1289340.1289386
    and
    http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Gait_recognition

    Quote : "Gait is one of the few biometrics that can be measured at a distance, and is hence useful for passive surveillance as well as biometric applications .... and works well with low-resolution video"

    Ok, these particular papers are looking at walking gait and would require a video sequence (webcam) rather than a static picture (Google StreeView), but the issues are the same.

    At what point would/should we (or the law) define 'recognizable' ?



  • Comment number 60.

    Well we've beaten Google to it! Click the link and see what you think - London Street Level View now Live on our maps: http://www.novaloca.com/blog/index.php/2008/10/17/view-londons-commercial-property-in-street-level-view-with-novalocas-maps/

  • Comment number 61.

    The central issue, surely, is that Google - or anyone else for that matter - are invading our privacy left, right and centre, by allowing these images to be stored permanently.They say it is no different from you and me walking down the street and observing the view. Sure enough, if we have a high tech camera and then post it on our website with an invitation sent out, worldwide, for all to come and look. The key point is this: they are omitting all images like military bases and, no doubt, GCHQ, and Langley in the USA. I wonder why, and who put pressure on for that? We should all be up in arms at this. Incidentally, am I among a tiny group that believes the CIA are all for this, along with our own video-obsessed Jacqui Smith? Just another means of surveillance, dressed up, this time as fun, and harmless. I think not!

  • Comment number 62.

    I think street view is fantastic! It's a brilliant advancement of technology!

    I really can't - and I really have tried to - understand what peoples problems with it are.

    If you are looking to move house it, going to a place you've not been before, etc etc you can do a test run and see landmarks exactly as you would when walking or driving there.

    I can understand the guy walking out of the sex shop, or the sunbathing girls, but they did it in public view, anyone could have seen... What if the BBC were doing a news story across the road from the sex shop when the guy walked out... that would be broadcast to everyone without faces blurred.

    I really dont see where the invasion of privacy is... The view from a public place is public.

    On the crime side of things, there are plenty of ways burgulars could get information relating to affluancy of an area and the likes... and besides wouldnt they just go there? Its not like it [street view] is a live feed!

    Also what about the arial photographers? What about satellite view (Microsoft Virtual Earth or Google Earth) You can even see in backgardens!

    Did you know you can be tracked by your mobile phone? Traffic cameras? CCTV cameras? Credit Card transactions? Tesco Clubcard? Cookies / trackers on the internet?

    Get over it... Why do some poeple just seem to fight, protest against and generally interfere with things. Are they afraid of change? Or do they have something to hide? Is it beyond their understanding?

    Should they just enjoy their relatively short time here instead of interferring! Surely all the stress will shorten their lives? - But then again maybe thats for the best!

  • Comment number 63.

    We have recently introduced a similar feature into our property portal website, helping to locate commercial property in the UK. To see it in action please visit our commercial property portal.

 

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