Posted May 13, 2009 6:51 am by with 5 comments

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Google’s attempt to have a picture of everything on this Google earth that we are allowed to live on has created more privacy concerns. Thisgoogle-street-view-car time the complaints are coming from Greece and depending on who you listen to these concerns are of varying degrees of intensity.

The New York Times reports that the Greek Data Protection Authority (DPA), which is a watchdog group has a history of clashes with many groups including the Greek government and the Greek Orthodox Church about privacy concerns, has banned the service from continuing to take pictures of Greek properties.

The concerns regarding Google’s Street View service is no different really than those raised in England when a village gathered up their torches and pitchforks to stop the Google View camera car from continuing to take pictures. It’s about privacy and whether Google can go around taking pictures of everything and then using it for their service is a violation of privacy needs of citizens and governments alike (Google took Google Earth images off its service after the Israeli government expressed concerns that the images were being used by Hamas for rocket assaults).

Google’s take is that they will blur faces and license plates numbers in any photos. Their contention to this point has been that the images they take are no different than anyone else can take from a street at any time. Of course, they omit the fact that about 99.99999999% of the rest of the world is not trying to put all of the images online in a service for people to look at any street from anywhere at any time for any reason but let’s not nit-pick here.

Google has had success in most areas with this defense thus far. There is some mounting opposition however.

The World Privacy Forum, a U.S.-based nonprofit research and advisory group, said the Greek decision could raise the standard for other countries and help challenge that argument.

”It only takes one country to express a dissenting opinion,” Pam Dixon, the group’s executive director, said in a phone interview from the United States. ”If Greece gets better privacy than the rest of the world then we can demand it for ourselves. That’s why it’s very important.”

Google’s response

Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company would be happy to provide the Greek DPA with further clarifications.

”Google takes privacy very seriously, and that’s why we have put in place a number of features, including the blurring of faces and license plates, to ensure that Street View will respect local norms when it launches in Greece,” Filadelfo said Tuesday.

Search Engine Land reports, however, that the supposed ban may not be as the NYT said.

But the BBC reports that Google denies it’s been banned in Greece. A Google spokesperson says:

“Street View has not been banned in Greece. We have received a request for further information and we are happy to continue discussing these issues with them. We will discuss with them whether it is appropriate for us to continue driving in the meantime.”

So it goes with Google’s Street View. Most don’t seem to mind the privacy issues because my guess is that most don’t know it is actually happening. When the Google Street View car shows up in your neighborhood how are you going to react?

  • A few years back I had an online altercation in a forum and he ended up posting a satellite view of my house as a method of proving he knew how to use the Internet (and maybe a little intimidation as well), I can see how some people would be a lot more uncomfortable if that type of people had sent a street view.

    Christopher Ross’s last blog post..By: LT

  • Tawna McKay

    Google Street View has already been to my neighborhood but skipped my street because it’s private. If that were not the case, I would have embraced it anyway because I have nothing to hide. Besides why would the whole world care about my one little modest house among what must now be millions of pictures of far more interesting houses?

    I don’t have a giant plastic chicken on my front lawn. There is no outhouse there either, but even if there were, I’m sure every one of my family members would close the door. And if I get drunk I don’t make a habit of passing out on the sidewalk – usually my couch serves that purpose just fine. About the only thing I fear is getting caught on a day my yard isn’t particularly tidy but then again – who really cares for more than 5 seconds? I can just hear it. “OMG, what a pig pen is that yard! Now, moving right along …”

    If Google captured me walking down the street, then I’d be sure to email links to the picture to all my friends and family so they could celebrate my newly found, albeit blurred, celebrity. I don’t frequent any place I’d be ashamed to be filmed entering or exiting, so that’s not a problem either.

  • Yeah, I don’t know about this issue, I guess it is a slippery slope. I mean I can definitely see where it can be a security issue if you are talking about national landmarks and such; it could be beneficial to the wrong sort of people who are strategizing something illegal or unimaginable. If you start this where will it end up? I don’t know that I want the Google street view car on my street capturing images. and as for my neighborhood — why does the rest of the world want or have a need to see it. Go look down your own street, if that doesn’t do it for you, walk over a few blocks and look at that one.

  • Yannis

    This is simply absurd. The data protection authority in Greece is more sensitive about data protection than it should be!!! In our struggle to be as much “democratic” as we can, we have reached a point where this is becoming an obstacle in our lives. Recently, the DPA issued a ruling that bans all traffic and police cameras, a surveilance network that was purchased by Greece during the Olympic Games, which cost hundreds of millions and -after all- is not there to peep into our private lives, but to protect the innocent from the criminals!!!

    In the same sense if I took a photo with my camera and published it on e.g. Facebook or on my website, the DPA should come and confiscate my camera or force my to take the picture off the web??? I think its stupid. Google street view is a fine service and we dont need to be THAT sensitive about our personal info.

    Yannis Syrigos / Athens, Greece

  • I have got serious concerns about google street view, This in my opinion is overstepping the line when it comes to privacy. Google says it will help people see what a street is like (say, home hunters etc), but then says it will only update the images ecery few years.. in my opinion that calls into question the validity of their entire arguement.

    I am eagerly awaiting the Google car along with my neighbours, The big 'google go home signs' are already in place.. hmmm wonder if our street will go online? hehe