Sunday, July 20, 2008

Outcry dilutes Google's all-seeing Street View plan

GOOGLE has been forced to water down its plans to put photographs of every house in Australia on the Internet.
For eight months, a fleet of Google-mobiles has driven through every state and territory taking footage of homes and businesses.

But, just months before its Street View site goes live, Google has bowed to pressure from privacy groups and agreed to not show faces or number plates. Civil libertarians have complained that the measures do not go far enough.

Street View, which was launched in the US last year, offers 360-degree pedestrian-level views of homes, buildings - and passers-by, who are captured by the roving cars, each mounted with 16 lenses.

Sydney, with its more than 51,000 streets, and parts of NSW, will be included in the first roll-out before the end of this year.

"In Australia the faces will be blurred, licence plates won't be visible and there's a very easy mechanism whereby if someone wants to remove an image, they can just click on Street View help, (then) report image - it's as easy as that," Google spokesman Rob Shilkin said.

Critics say Street View can catch people in compromising positions and is open to abuse by criminals, who can map escape routes.

The photo can be downloaded, copied or re-posted before it's removed.

"Once your privacy is lost you can never ever get it back and that's why it's so important to ensure there's no chance of that happening in the first place," NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said.

"Ultimately I think there's going to be enormous litigation over this."

David Vaile, executive director of the University of NSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre and vice-chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, said Google resisted requests to conduct a privacy impact assessment.

"I just don't like the idea that it suddenly becomes acceptable ... that the streets belong to some company that, for their own purposes - and everybody else's entertainment - puts your house up there," Mr Vaile said.


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