Posted April 2, 2009 9:02 pm by with 12 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

No, this power-to-the-people headline isn’t a belated April Fools’ joke. A Buckinghamshire neighborhood barred a Google Street View car from photographing its homes and streets with an impromptu mob.

The Times reports that after a string of robberies recently, residents had been on the watch for suspicious vehicles. Unsurprisingly, a car with a sphere of cameras mounted on its roof fit that bill.

Resident Paul Jacobs first saw the car. Jacobs went door to door alerting his neighbors, who gathered in the road. They blocked the Google car from passing and called the police. Eventually the driver turned around and left. Jacobs told the Times:

My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime.

Personally, I had no idea Google was so powerful. I mean, I’ve seen The Googling, but apparently Google just considering taking photos of a neighborhood makes burglars target it. Because guess what? That crime wave they claim Google was “facilitating” took place without any help from Street View.

Naturally, UK law is quite different from to US law in the area of privacy. In the US, it’s well established that anyone can take a picture of your home without your consent (as long as they’re standing on public property to do so). Indeed, it’s only by actually entering your property that an action may be considered an invasion of privacy, and actionable by law.

The UK subscribes to the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 8: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” However, I’m willing to bet that “his home” doesn’t mean that we all have to pluck out our eyes if we walk down the street. If you can see it from the street, it may not be considered “private.”

To make things even more complex, there is no UK law legislating a right to privacy. Even in the US the “right to privacy” emanates from a penumbra from other rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, the UK doesn’t even have that. According to Wikipedia, “An action may be brought under another tort and privacy must then be considered under EC law. In the UK, it is sometimes a defense that disclosure of private information was in the public interest.”

I’m not going to opine whether an image the exterior of one’s house is in the public interest (though, apparently, the details of the Beckhams’ marriage are…). But the fact of the matter remains: if you want real privacy, plant a hedgerow.

Or, y’know, form a mob to forcibly stop one car with cameras one time. Because that’s totally the proper, legal, mature way to behave.

  • I know the feeling – I am torn between the need for information and the relative lack of privacy.

    bryan’s last blog post..Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

  • If used properly, I think it’s great. Why do people misuses things and ruined it for everyone!

  • There isn’t any law in the UK to stop buildings or people being photographed, if the photographer is in a public place. I know this as I’m an amateur photographer and have been challenged in the past by over zealous security. This is also why authorities can get away with having so many CCTV cameras everywhere. If there was a law against it, then the public would have to be asked if they wanted to be on CCTV, which would just not work.

    I’m surprised that there has been such an outcry against Streetview. If the same people were selling their houses, they would have no objection to it being photographed and put online. And burglars have been plying their ‘trade’ for centuries before Streetview came along.

  • Pingback: » Forget the G20 protests, the real action is in Broughton The Red Rocket: Technology, PR and social media marketing()

  • Thanks, Tony! I thought it might be similar to the US’s law on the subject. I’d forgotten about the prevalence of CCTV monitoring, too.

    In case you can’t tell, I’m rather surprised by the outcry, too. You’re exactly right.

  • Pingback: Angry Mob Stops Google Street View Car | Blippitt | Tech News | Affiliate Marketing()

  • This is going to be a tough arbitration/negotiation that will turn into litigation and then legislation. LOL to us all..

  • Lets keep in mind, these will not be a live video feed but rather a still shot.

  • Daniel Maxson

    I agree that this basically equates to walking down a street. Except it’s even less invasive than that since you can’t see anybody’s faces, can’t read license plates, and any controversial pictures are removed. So what is the mob complaining about again?

    As the Canadian Press put it, “Obviously you need to protect privacy, and you need to work with governments and local authorities to make sure that any concerns they may have, you have to answer to them. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.” (As quotes at

  • Pingback: Google StreetView —

  • PrivacyAdvocate

    GOOD FOR THE MOB! And hide your children when you see the Google car! Google puts everyone at risk with their irresponsible exploitations for profit. May they get what they deserve and people block their way always.

  • Pingback: Tort Law Uk Wiki | How To Claim Personal Injuries()