Privacy International calls for Google Street View to be shut down

News by Dan Raywood

Privacy International has filed a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) requesting that Google Street View is shut down.

Privacy International has filed a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) requesting that Google Street View is shut down.


Director Simon Davies claimed that he was ‘writing on behalf of a large number of complainants to Privacy International' about the Street View system, and claimed that despite the ICO giving it the green light, there were concerns about safeguards in the technology.


Davies wrote in his letter: “We are aware that you have given a green light to the product on the basis of assurances provided by the company. However we believe that these promised safeguards in Street View's technology (i.e. the automatic blurring of faces) have not performed to the extent that Google had indicated.


“Moreover, given the clear embarrassment and damage that some of these images have caused it is in our view entirely unacceptable to address data protection concerns by way of notice and take-down of images. Accordingly, it is our view that Street View violates the Data Protection Act and we ask that you take immediate action to prevent further encroachments on the core principles of the Act.”


Davies made reference to several images where people had been caught in compromising positions, which had in fact been innocent, and claimed ‘that the technology has created substantial threat to a number of individuals and that the extent of intrusion into the homes of some complainants is unlawful'.


Making reference to the ability of users to report an image if they feel it contravenes on their privacy, Davies claimed: “If the onus is placed on the individual after an offending image has been published to take steps to remedy the situation, the core purpose of the Data Protection Act will have been defeated.


“We believe that with regard to data protection compliance, the standards applying to lawful deployment of technology should be as robust as those applying to health and safety or environmental protection. This is certainly not the situation that is being considered in the case of Street View.”


He further pointed out that there was no option of consent given by Google, and claimed that ‘the process of capturing the image per se is unlawful', as with CCTV capture the public is informed that they are in an area where CCTV surveillance is being carried out – as specified by the 2008 ICO code.


Davies said: “Notification by way of media coverage is clearly not an acceptable form of notice provision.”


In conclusion, Davies told the ICO: “We urge you to require Google to remove all images until we have achieved clarity on the application of the Data Protection Act and further clarification of the true impact of Google's technology on the rights of individuals.


“Privacy International believes that the steady encroachment by organisations into the private lives of individuals has come about in part because of the sort of pragmatic regulation that has been demonstrated in the case of Street View. It is time, in our view, to reform the consultation and approval process adopted by your office in line with community expectations and best practice.”


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