Google invaded the privacy of a Montreal woman by showing her sitting outside of her house with “part of her breast exposed,” and must pay her compensation, a judge ruled this month.
According to a 17-page decision, Maria Pia Grillo suffered shock and embarrassment when she looked up her house using Google Maps’ Street View feature in 2009 and discovered an image that shows her leaning forward and exposing cleavage.
The original image, and a subsequent blurred version, can be seen in these Google Street View images published this week by the tabloid, Journal de Montreal (the “after” version is bottom left):
Even though the original image, which was snapped by one of Google’s camera-equipped cars, blurred out her face, the rest of the picture provided enough information to identify her.
Two years later, Grillo started legal proceedings against Google to “blur” the rest of her, as well as her license plate and address. She also demanded the company pay $45,000 for emotional damage, including depression and mockery from her co-workers at a “well-known bank” where she worked.
Google agreed to blur out more of the image, but rejected her money claims on the grounds that Grillo was in a public place and, in any case, that there was not a connection between the Street View incident and Grillo’s subsequent emotional troubles.
The judge agreed that the Street View incident, while causing a shock for Grillo, did not appear to be directly connected to the mental conditions that she claimed. He also wondered why Grillo waited two years to start her legal case.
But the judge also rejected Google’s “public place” defense and said people do not forfeit their privacy rights simply by being in a location others can see them. He ordered the company to pay Grillo $2,250 plus interest and an additional $159 in court costs.
Privacy buffs may also be interested to note that the court drew a contrast between the law in the United States, and its emphasis on free expression, versus what prevails in Canada and Quebec. The judge also elected to adopt a “European approach” to deciding what should count as “personal information.”
Here’s the decision (no English version available for now — though certain passages, including claims by Grillo, are in English)