European regulators, in the latest chapter of an ongoing privacy battle with Google, have told the company that it needs to warn people when its Street View cameras are going to be filming them, and to shorten the length of time that it keeps the images generated by the service. The Associated Press says it obtained a letter the EU sent to Google informing the company of the need to make these changes, but the search company is apparently resisting.
In response to the EU’s request to inform people about when the Street View car is going to be filming them, Google said it already does this by posting the details on its web site. According to a Dow Jones report, however, the letter specifically said that Google should notify cities and towns by “appropriate announcements in the national, regional and or local press.” The regulatory body also had an issue with the fact that Google keeps unblurred photos from Street View on its servers for 12 months, although only blurred images are available to the public (the search company agreed to blur faces, license plates and other personal items after previous privacy complaints).
In a statement that was seen by Bloomberg News, however, Google lawyer Peter Fleischer responded by saying:
The need to retain the unblurred images is legitimate and justified — to ensure the quality and accuracy of our maps, to improve our ability to rectify mistakes in blurring, as well as to use the data we have collected to build better maps products for our users.
Google has faced repeated opposition to Street View in a number of countries. Last year, Greece blocked the company’s plans to take photos of its streets until it could come up with more privacy safeguards, and Google also recently acceded to demands from the German government that it erase photos of faces, house numbers, license plates and shots of any people who have said they don’t want to appear on the service. Europe has been far more vigilant in taking steps to protect its residents’ privacy from services such as Google’s, although Canada also took steps to get Google to make changes to its service before it was launched last year.
The EU letter also reportedly said that Google should appoint a representative in each European country to ensure that Street View is in compliance with that country’s specific privacy laws. The requests come from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, a group of regulators composed of representatives from all the EU’s member countries. News of the EU demands comes just days after several senior Google executives were convicted by an Italian court of violating privacy laws by allowing a video to be uploaded that showed a mentally disabled child being tormented by bullies.
Related content from GigaOm Pro (sub req’d):