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Privacy Group Wants Google Maps Feature Shut Down In Britain

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The fury in the UK over Google’s effort to introduce its Street View feature to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Maps continues to escalate. The latest twist: A privacy group has filed a formal complaint with the British Information Commissioner, asking that the service be shut down pending an investigation, because it says more than 200 people could be identified in the street-view images.

Privacy International says that Google’s privacy safeguards, which include the automatic blurring of faces in Street View photos, haven’t worked well enough. The group details a number of instances in which people’s privacy was violated, including one in which a man smoking a cigarette was recognized by a partner, causing “distress and dysfunction in the relationship as the man in question had not disclosed to his partner that he enjoyed the occasional cigarette.”

In another, a woman was captured leaning out of her window with a man. The woman’s husband discovered the image and confronted his wife, according to the complaint. It turned out the man was a contractor. In a third instance, a 15-year-old boy was caught carrying a skateboard, which his parents had not allowed him to use.

The complaint follows a weekend of embarrassment in the British press for Google since Street View launched last Thursday. The Independent newspaper found an image of a naked toddler on Street View Sunday, raising safety concerns. Another paper noted that Tony Blair’s London home as well as various government buildings did not show up in Street View, which it implied was a double standard.

In an interview with the BBC Tuesday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt responded to the complaints:

“The way we address it is by allowing people to opt out, literally to take anything we capture that is inappropriate out, and we do it as quickly as we possibly can. We are getting controversy over Street View because it is so successful. It turns out that people love to see what is going on in their local community.”

Schmidt might have a point. Traffic on Google Maps UK jumped 41 percent the day after Google Street View was launched, according to Hitwise.

2 Responses to “Privacy Group Wants Google Maps Feature Shut Down In Britain”

  1. I don't think this even is an invasion of privacy. They're not showing us anything that we couldn't know simply by walking down the street. In fact, they don't even show faces or license plates (though there have been some examples where they missed blurring a face or plate, but they're quick to correct those cases). Then add everything London said about the CCTVs and monitoring, and I think the ICO was well advised to approve Google's coverage (you can find out more about that at

  2. Do you not think it is a bit late to start complaining about the lack of privacy in the UK?

    The goverment now forces ISP's to keep info they have on users internet usage, telephone calls are monitored, London has the most CCTV cameras in the world and you can get arrested (I think up to 8 years in prison) for photographing a policeman.