Watchdog rejects Google Street View complaint
Published 23/04/2009 | 11:47
The privacy watchdog rejected a complaint against Google Street View today.
The Information Commissioner said the service, which allows users to scroll around a montage of street-level photographs of Britain, does not breach the Data Protection Act.
A spokesman said removing the entire service would be "disproportionate to the relatively small risk of privacy detriment".
Campaign group Privacy International argued that Street View breached the privacy of people accidentally caught on camera by Google's photo cars.
But David Evans, the Information Commission's senior data protection practice manager compared being captured by the service to passers-by filmed on television news camera or football crowds in the background on televised matches.
It would not be in the public interest to "turn the digital clock back", he said.
"In the same way, there is no law against anyone taking pictures of people in the street as long as the person using the camera is not harassing people," he said.
"Google Street View does not contravene the data protection Act and, in many cases, it is not in the public interest to turn the digital clock back.
"In a world where many people Tweet, Facebook and blog, it is important to take a commonsense approach towards Street View and the relatively limited privacy intrusion it may cause."
He said Google should routinely blur images of people's faces and car number plates.
The company was responding "quickly" to requests from people to have particular images deleted, he said.
When the service launched, users discovered a man walking out of a sex shop and another being sick outside a pub.
Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher was photographed drinking in a pub.
The Information Commissioner's office confirmed it had received 74 complaints and inquiries about Street View and would continue to monitor the service.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) revealed it met with Google in July 2008 to discuss privacy issues before its UK launch last month.
A Google spokeswoman said: "We are pleased with the ICO's statement.
"We took care to build privacy considerations into Street View from the outset and have engaged with the ICO throughout the development process.
"Already millions of British people have benefited from Street View, whether to get driving directions, find local businesses, or explore a tourist destination.
"We recognise that a small minority of people may not wish their house to be included in the service, which is why we have created easy to use removal tools."