Monday, September 24, 2007

Google modifying street view to meet Canadian privacy expectations

According to the Globe & Mail, Google is looking into blurring faces and license plates in its Canadian version of Street View to satisfy the requirements of local privacy laws. This is in the wake of earlier reports that the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, had written to Google and Immersive Media with her view that rolling out the service would likely infringe Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. (See: Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Privacy Commissioner questions legality of Google Street View in Canada.) Google: we hear (and see a fuzzy rendition of you), Canada

The man in charge of Google's privacy policy says the Internet giant is working on a version of its controversial Street View service that won't breach Canadian privacy rules, after federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart raised concerns about the service earlier this month.

Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said in an interview from Montreal on Monday the company understands Canada has "struck a different balance" than the U.S. has in terms of what is public and what is private, and that Google is sensitive to those differences.

Street View, which has data available from seven U.S. cities but does not yet include any Canadian sites, is a tool that shows users street-level photographs of the addresses they are searching for. Some of the photos, which are being taken by a fleet of cars belonging to Immersive Media of Calgary, show individuals entering adult-video stores and urinating in public.

In comments earlier this month, Ms. Stoddart said that she had contacted Google and Immersive Media to express her concerns that taking photos of people -- even in public -- for such a service might violate Canadian privacy laws.

The United States has "a long tradition of saying that it is legal and appropriate to take pictures from public spaces and publish them," Mr. Fleischer said. "But clearly, we're aware that different countries around the world strike a different balance between this idea of a public place on the one hand and people's expectation of privacy."


Mr. Fleischer said the Internet company doesn't have "an exact timeline" of when Street View might be available in Canada, but said Google is working on it now. Altering the quality of the photos "makes it a little harder for us [to launch Street View in Canada], because it takes a little more work," he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Check out this list of the "alleged" Google Street View privacy invasions already discovered in the US:

There is even a Google Street View capture of a woman going in for an HIV test!