Do you object to Google Street View?

April 23, 2009

Google’s “Street View” service has survived calls to have it shut down. The UK’s privacy watchdog has ruled that removing the service, which allows users to navigate around a 360-degree view of streets and houses in 25 cities, would be “disproportionate to the relatively small risk of privacy detriment.”

Google promised to obscure images of pedestrians or car licence plates but some slipped through the net. The media reported a number of embarrassing images including a man walking out of a sex shop and another being sick outside a pub.

The residents of one village, meanwhile, tried to block the cameras, claiming the service would allow burglars to scope out their homes. The campaign group Privacy International complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

A spokesperson for the ICO said: “Google Street View does not contravene the Data Protection Act and, in any case, 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 common sense approach towards Street View and the relatively limited privacy intrusion it may cause.”

He also said there was no law to stop anyone taking pictures of people in the street, providing they were not harassing them, while members of the public appeared every day on TV reports.

Google has promised to address people’s privacy concerns and said that all requests to remove or black out images would be carried out.

What do you think of Google Street View? Have you used the site? Do you feel that your privacy has been invaded and that it should be shut down? Or do you think it is a fantastic service? Finally, have you been caught on camera?


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Google simply is taking advantage of every UK person’s right to take photographs in a public space. If people were genuinely concerned about their activites being captured or recorded by anyone who is in a public area, they would hopefully have enough common sense to realise that the simple solution is to do whatever it is they’re doing in a place which is not publically visible.

Reading various comments reported in the press, it seems that the main objections are coming either from people who don’t actually understand what Google’s service is or from people who just like to complain about things without thinking them through.

Posted by Bob Stickle | Report as abusive

Well Bob, I have no difficulty with your first sentence, and that,s as good as it gets from me. I have some difficulty in accepting that any person in that public place, apparently appears to have every right to invade my private space. This is clearly wrong. Private individuals have every right to enjoy their defensible space without intrusion.
The press and paparazzi have been been made well aware of this recently, moreover,the courts in Scotland recently supported a claim of invasion of privacy by Anne Gloag of Stagecoach fame. going so far as to deny the right of freedom to roam over what once was a public right of way because it encroached on her private space.

Posted by Hector | Report as abusive

As Bob states I think most people complaining don’t understand the Street View product. Some seem to think it is a live feed of every street they’ve covered and that whenever they leave there house they’ll be on camera online. It is a one off photo and if you didn’t see the Google car then it probably didn’t see you.

There is certainly a culture of people complaining about anything remotely controversial and also being very easily influenced by the mainstream press, which certainly seems to be the case here. Street view is actually a very useful tool for some people, and as a property developer it allows me to virtually visit certain sites and properties without leaving my desk.

End of the day the photos are all taken in public and could be taken by anyone with enough time on their hands.

Posted by Rod Tenant | Report as abusive

I think it’s really a great idea, while traveling on the place that we are not quite familiar with, we can get the real image information immediately to search our target. If we have GPS as well as google street view, we can confirm the information given by GPS is correct. Another situation is that when the resolution of GPS is not high enough, Google street view can be an assistant to provide visualized scene then we can compare it to what we are located by sight. We also can easily plan which store or restaurant we should go to by the way because the information is much more than just a map. We can judge whether it is easy to find a parking lot or only can park temporarily. To sum up, I believe none can not stop the trend that people want to grab easy, free and rich information from the internet even if it has already invade someone’s privacy .

Posted by tiger | Report as abusive

What is the difference between looking at a photo of a street and actually standing on the same street looking at the people and houses? At what point does walkind down the road become an invasion of other peoples’ privacy? Will we be required to go blindfold? Come on people, grow up and get on with your lives, surely there are more important things to be concerned with. I have no issue with this service and I quite enjoyed looking at places where I used to live and was surprised to see how little had changed.

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

Anyone can see it in person and remember it, so the issue is whether they can do so remotely by photograph.

But anyone can photograph it and put it up on a range of websites, so the issue then is whether Google should do it professionally.

Our area got done recently and we all stood outside and waved … yoo-hoo !

Posted by Sid Holder | Report as abusive

In response to Hector, I would argue that a person standing on a public highway is not invading anyone’s private space. If I was to walk into your living room, then I would be invading your privacy. However, if you have your living room curtains open, then me standing on the road looking into your living room is not invading your privacy. By making your living room visible, you’re making the choice to allow that to be seen by the public. If you actively make this choice, I don’t believe you can reasonably defend your right to privacy in that case. Thankfully, simple inventions like curtains means you can control when your living is visible by the public.

Of course, there are restrictions in the UK about publishing a person’s image, which is why people’s faces are blurred out (putting something on the internet I believe counts as publishing). Otherwise the argument of publishing a picture of a person without consent would apply. It’s not foolproof, but I think it’s fair to say that Google are making a significant effort on this front.

I’m not aware specifically of the Anne Gloag case, or any other case where a photographer has been prosecuted in the UK on privacy grounds for taking a photo in a public place. As a photographer myself, I’d be very nervous of any precident that may be set here, as the ability to take photos in a public space for personal use is a freedom enjoyed by all, and in the wake of the recent G20 protests is useful in holding those who enforce authority to accountability.

I think it’s important to defend people’s privacy, but we need to be clear about what privacy is. Ultimately, I don’t believe it is reasonable for a person to be able to dictate what another person can lawfully do in public based on their probably incorrect perceptions about their privacy. If you want to keep things private, don’t do them in places which can be observed by members of the public.

Posted by Bob Stickle | Report as abusive

Personally, I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. If faces are automatically blurred out, I don’t think this is an invasion of privacy. After all, you are on a public street.

Watched a video the other day that said, “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.” As far as I can tell, they’re not breaking the law, and it’s totally within their rights to do this.

Here’s the link: he_age_of_google/

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Is there a difference between being spied on by Google and being spied on by our own government?

I think not.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

i dont understand why people don’t like it i think it is a great idea. What is different from someone standing out side your house and looking they can even look in your house which google can’t really do well done google

Posted by robert | Report as abusive

i object most strongly to google streetview as i find it an invasion of my privacy

Posted by david miller | Report as abusive

I love it!!!! I don’t see how it invades privacy. These images are a year or more old taken in public place. I can take picture of people walking out of buildings etc. anytime, and I won’t even blur the face or I can hire a private detective if I am a jealous wife to take pictures for me, it’s perfectly legal. Google does not do harm, if anything it’s beneficial as I can look around the area before going there, saving me time and money on petrol, saving the planet as I don’t have to drive or fly there! Well done google! The only people that object this are the ones they are either paranoid, or do something they shouldn’t. People that are honest have not fears! Public place is public place and if you don’t want to be caught in a compromising situation just don’t do it! Simple as that!

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