Google Street View Goes to England

July 4th, 2008 at 12:00 am

google street view london

Google Maps Street View has been a controversial service ever since it started.  In the US, though there no laws against taking pictures on the street and posting it on the net, many privacy activists and individuals complained when they saw their faces, license numbers or houses and even cities on Google Maps.

Still, Google Maps has a great collection of Street View photos in most major cities in the US. Now they’re taking it to Europe.

The Euro-trip starts in London, England and Google is off to a bumpy start.  Unlike the US, the British do have a law about taking pictures and using it for commercial ends.  Privacy International, a UK rights group is complaining that the whole street view application is in violation of privacy laws.  Simon Davis of Privacy International says, "In our view they need a person’s consent if they make use of a person’s face for commercial ends."

Google is not prepared to pay every bloke in the UK just to get photos of their streets on Google Maps.  They have a solution that’s more practical but still questionable.  Google has been trying out facial blurring technologies but it hasn’t been perfected yet.  The technology is quite simple, have the camera detect any face and blur it out.   The catch is, it’s not sure if Google is currently using the technology or still testing it.

Privacy International’s Mr. Davies brought this up to Google and had this to say, "We’ve spoken to Google in the past about this and received a snide response telling us to look more closely at their blogs.  We’ve been told by engineers at Google that the technology is not ready to be deployed."

Privacy International is preparing a formal complaint to be sent to the Information Commissioner  seeking a suspension of  Street View in the UK.

It seems quite ironic that the Brits are complaining about Street View when they have the largest CCTV network monitoring every corner in London.  Moreover, Britain also has the largest paparazzi industry and the most controversial tabloids.