Streetview 'won't invade privacy'

Google Streetview will not be breaching any privacy laws when it is launched in the UK, according to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Streetview, part of Google Earth and Maps, allows users to obtain 360-degree street-level photographic views.

Concerns have been raised over individuals' personal privacy, as images would include vehicles and people in the vicinity when the pictures are captured. Earlier this year, a couple in the US, where Google Streetview has been operating for more than a year, sued Google for $25,000 damages. Their home, which could only be accessed by a private road, was visible on Google Streetview.

London-based Privacy International has expressed worries that the unscrupulous would use images for blackmail and burglary, as well as compromising those who, for instance, visited sex shops.

But the ICO says it is satisfied that Google has put in place adequate safeguards “to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including the blurring of registration marks and the faces of anyone included in Streetview images.”

Its statement continued: “Although it is possible that in certain limited circumstances an image may allow the identification of an individual, it is clear that Google is keen to capture images of streets and not individuals. Further, there is an easy mechanism by which individuals can report an image that causes them concern to Google and request that it is removed.

“Images are not real time and there is a delay between taking an image and its publication so that it could not be used to make decisions about an individual's current whereabouts.”

The Data Protection Act would not apply unless people could be identified in the images.

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