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Google must pay Canadian woman $2,250 for showing her cleavage in Street View

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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):

Google Street View

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)

Google Street View Case

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28 Responses to “Google must pay Canadian woman $2,250 for showing her cleavage in Street View”

  1. Anything for a buck….come on. She was sitting outside, in public with her hooters right out there and didn’t think anything of it. Now it turned into a damaging issue.

  2. I recollect a case in Alberta where a man’s life was thrust into chaos because he was observed nude inside his own home by nasty neighbours. He had not closed curtains and they photographed him and then used those images to support their case against him. If memory serves he was a public employee and subsequently had a bit of trouble with his job.
    To me it appears to be the polar opposite of this situation and I side with google on this, she’s outside, in public and she alone is responsible for how she is dressed. I don’t think they should have to blur the image either.

    • Joe Canuck

      As it’s been already stated, the Law in Quebec is as it is no matter what.
      The opinions of Judges can count, not ours, and then there’s the law which, in this case, favours her. There might be no real expectation of privacy, but there isn’t the expectation of having your picture splashed all over the Internet either, this isn’t the I-Cloud….LOL
      As far as free expression, when you don’t have to worry about a cameraman taking pictures, YOU can freely express yourself even more.
      Support the Individual and remember Corporation have no interest in defending you.

      • John Beales

        You should see the TV news here in Quebec. Anytime they need to show people who aren’t the subject of the story they only show them from the waist down. There are a lot of legs. It’s because of the Droit de l’Image.

        CTV even did a story about it once, (slow news day), where they filmed people crossing a bridge from Ontario, IIRC. They showed their legs until they hit the border marker on the bridge, then they showed the whole person.

  3. Ben J. Davidson

    I am fairly certain if she was nude or having sex that the police would ticket and or arrest her so I don’t see how she would feel that she was in any way protected by privacy laws in this situation.

  4. Daleta Whiskey

    It is pretty amazing. My front porch is maybe 20-25 feet from the street. (15 feet from the sidewalk) I really can’t imagine sitting on my porch in nothing but a thong and expecting any sense of privacy. But if Canada’s law says someone can’t just roll up and take of picture of me, then I guess it’s a pretty good law. I don’t think its sue worthy at least not in this case, because it wasn’t a blatant transgression and I don’t think a judge should have in essence fined Google, unless Google refused to remove the pic or perform an acceptable blur job on the photo.

  5. Anonymous

    “But the judge also rejected Google’s “public place” defense and said people do not forfeit their privacy rights simply by being in a public place”

    No. That’s exactly how it works, otherwise the Paparazzi/Celebrity Stalkers/Public photographers would be out of business. If you are in a public space, you consent to photos. Is it impolite? Sure. Illegal? No.

    Google just realized it wasn’t worth the money to fight against that. They’d rather just hand over the pocket change.

    • Thanks for the comment, but I’m not sure that’s the right assessment. The judge also gives examples of a hospital parking lot, or the outside of a senior citizens’ complex — his point is that, like this woman’s porch, just being in public view doesn’t make you fair game for passing cameras.

      I’m not saying that’s the right choice, but rather that the law in Canada and Quebec provides more stringent privacy rights than the US, which can be a good thing. (The downside is less free expression)

      • Anonymous

        Source (due to not being in legalize…)

        “On public property, like side walks. This includes taking photos of anything that a normal person could see from public property.” – The photo was taken from the street of something that can be seen from the street.

        “On property that is privately owned, but open to the public, like malls, galleries, etc. Although you should ask before taking photos, if there aren’t any “no photography” signs, you may take photos until told otherwise by the owner, property manager, security guard, or other representative of the owner.” – Rude but legal.

        This is a tough one, but I would argue that being outside in public view on your front porch is not “reasonable expectation of privacy”. If it were your backyard or in your home, yes. But your front-facing public yard? No.

        “You cannot photograph a person who has a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy‘. This is someone who believes that they are in a private location and no-one is watching them, such as a person in a bathroom.”

        These apply largely to Ontario, more specifically Toronto, but a brief review of the site doesn’t show any major changes from the above.

        I’ll stick with my “it was cheaper for Google to pay the pocket change than to fight it” argument. Just like how many businesses pay Patent Trolls because it’s cheaper than fighting the troll.

        • There is a difference between simply taking photos, and publishing photos online via google street view – as there are different laws for a tourist wandering around with a camcorder, and a crew filming for a television broadcast.

          At least in the U.S., unless the shot is “of a crowd”, a television or film crew must get signed consent forms of everyone who appears in the shot before they can broadcast that material.

          • And in this case, nobody is “broadcasting” anything. To see a particular photo, you have to actively “walk” into the area (even if in an equivalent of virtual reality). It’s not like someone was flashing the photo on prime time news.

          • Totally not true. In the United States, if you are in a public place and you are caught on camera they really do not need your consent. They may get your consent to avoid litigation later, but they really do not have to. Plenty of news crews never get the consent of people, but may as a courtesy black out their faces, but they actually do not have to do that.

    • …but sitting on your front steps of your home isn’t public space. I mean, she goes outside dressed like so what can she expect but jeering and catcalls, but it is *not* public space. Google is big on privacy rights violations.

    • Marc Telesha

      We are living in the Anti-Google era. Good thing they totally deserve it since we have so many examples of them doing things that hurt their customers.

      1) Amazing search that makes the internet useful. To many forgot Excite and Yahoo searches being 95% garbage.
      2) Free GMail
      3) Using a web page so you don’t have to have M$ Office
      4) Getting Ads that you more then likely would be interested in rather then random ads that you hate. So no feminine products on my internet ads.
      5) Free phone OS so everyone has a choice
      6) MOST Evil Google Summer of Code!!!

      • Maybe a world less black and white would allow you to undersand that google does some things good, and some things very badly, such as this obvious privacy violation, for which they were deservedely punished.