Privacy fears over Google Street View

Google’s UK launch of its Street View service yesterday has raised privacy concerns over the use of photographs taken without the knowledge or consent of people in them.

Members of the public may find themselves unwittingly featured in the interactive maps, which cover millions of homes in 25 British cities.

The photographs, on which the service is based, were taken from camera-mounted cars last summer. Google photographed over 22,000 miles of streets and took millions of images.

Google has taken steps to obscure faces and car licence plates, however some individuals and cars are still clearly identifiable. Google has indicated it will remove images on request.

A spokesman for the Information Commission said: ‘We are satisfied that Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals.”

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, is considering legal action over the issue highlighting the lack of prior consent.

But Christina Michalos, a barrister specialising in copyright law, told Press Gazette: ‘In most cases, people in a public street will not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

‘There will be exceptions, for example, someone receiving emergency medical treatment or where there is covert photography for publication as in the JK Rowling case.

‘However, the images on Google Street View focus on the streets and individuals are only incidentally included.”

As to the question of whether journalists can reproduce Google Street View images, she said: ‘It is a copyright work and unless you have a defence such as criticism and review, you need to seek the permission of the copyright holder.”

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