Blurs faces and number plates on request
Street View is a Google product which consists of photographs of streets in the US. The company has faced criticism because people's faces, car number plates and even views into their houses are visible in the photographs.
Marissa Mayer, Google vice president of search products and user experience, said the company now removes faces or car number plates on request.
"It's a good policy for users and also clarifies the intent of the product," Mayer told News.com after a speech at a search engine conference.
She said the change was made just days after the launch of Street View in May but not announced.
Mayer said that when Google receives a complaint about a face or number plate it takes the offending photo down. She said the panoramic images are made up of a number of photos, so the removal of one does not affect the whole image.
She said the company had received "not even dozens" of requests for removal, and that the request does not have to come from the person whose face or number plate is pictured.
Google has faced a spate of recent questions and objections over its privacy policies. It announced that it would keep search records linking search terms to internet protocol addresses for a shorter periods, sparking a row with privacy regulators and users.
In the aftermath of the announcement the privacy policies of other search engines also came under scrutiny.
Google then announced that it would reduce the length of time that its cookies would remain on users' computers. Cookies are small text files that can be used to track a user's activity.
Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com
OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Don't use privacy to defeat freedom
This is an example of where privacy is being turned against freedom, and those who complain about the publication of photographs in which they appear in public are contributing to the loss. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a private home, but this does NOT extend - and has NEVER extended - to being in a public place. If you are in public, you must expect to be in a photo here and there, and if you're that paranoid, stay in your damn house.
I value my privacy, and object as strongly as anybody to government surveillance when it intrudes on that privacy, but I have no objection to people taking photographs in public and publishing them on the internet - I do it myself.
Recently, I was questioned by a security guard while taking pictures in a city street. I explained that I was taking shots for a website promoting the city as a tourist destination, whereupon he tried to tell me stop, citing privacy law. He had to shut up and piss off when I pointed out the three webcams covering just that street, and gave him the URL of the council website that displayed them. He even checked the site on his mobile phone, and sure enough - there we were, quite recognisable, and on the Internet! These cameras are not signposted, nor are they particularly prominent. There's no substantive difference between what they put on the internet and what I put on it, except that THOSE cameras update in real time, whereas my photos are one-offs.
Nobody ever complained about people taking photographs pre-2000, so why are people up in arms now? Don't confuse privacy and freedom; while the two are related, it's too easy to use one to eliminate the other.
Street photography and privacy
First off, please believe me - I WANT to keep my privacy. I don't like government or businesses or... well... ANYONE keeping tabs on where I go, what I read, and whom I talk to.
The problem, though, is that - unless I want to wear a disguise when I go out, anyone who cares to WILL know all of those things.
BECAUSE I AM DOING THEM IN PUBLIC.
Re: "Just DO it ...: -Anon:
"If the USA had any worthwhile data protection, google would be forced to identify and remove personal information from its streetviews -- either that, or obtain the permission of the subject. But google would not be obliged to find out who the people are, it could simply DO it as a matter of course and leave it at that."
Are you only insisting that commercial operations do this, or would you insist that ANYONE taking photos in a public place do so?
Thought experiment: You take a photo of your family/friends while on vacation. Afterwards, a stranger comes up to you and saya "I was in the background of that picture that you just shot and it is an invasion of my privacy to take my picture without my permission. I insist you delete it, immediately."
A - Delete the picture immediately and offer to let the person check your camera (we're assuming a digital camera, here) to see if s/he is in any other pics so you can delete them, too;
B -Thank the stranger for coming over, whip out your handy pad of Permission Forms and politely ask that s/he sign one, authorizing the use of his her image in your offline/online family photo album, then run around getting similar waivers from everyone else who was visible in the snap, or
C - Tell the complainant to take a flying one through a rolling doughnut because you weren't TRYING to take their picture and it's not your fault they got in the way?
Re: "privacy is so last century" - jeremy
"Although a little utopian, the only way we can regain control is to put the assumption of ownership with the subject (i.e. i own rights to all my data / images of me etc)."
The assumption that the individual should own ANYTHING that might, conceivably, identify the individual - potentially to their detriment - is attractive at first but is ultimately (and perhaps counterintuitvely) hazardous to any attempt to maintain a free society.
In the US, at least in the state where I live, the difference lies in whether you are in a place where you can REASONABLY have an assumption of privacy. For example, if someone were to take your picture among a crowd of shoppers on the sales floor of a clothing store you would, since you are out among a crowd of people (and assuming that the photographer is not stalking you, personally) have no reasonable expectation of privacy and so trhe photographer's right to shoot a picture which includes you wins. If the photographer took your picture in the dressing rooms of the store, where you WOULD have a reasoinable assumption of privacy, your right to privacy wins.
At what point does the need to publicize items of public interest or possible wrongdoing outweigh the individual's right to privacy? A friend of mine, some years ago, got a phone call from her mother (who lived a half-dozen states away), scolding her for jaywalking that day. It seems that the Weather Channel had used footage shot by a local station's news department of a street scene showing the heavy rain in the area that day, which just happened to catch my friend (among others) crossing against the light. Her mother was checking the local forecast and caught the 10-second film clip.
Shouild my friend have sued the cameraman, local station and TWC for invasion of privacy and public embarrassment? Or (as she did) admit that getting caught doing something dumb in public was just what can happen if you do something dumb in public?
Should she have had the right to insist that any images of her were her property and no one else should be allowed to use them without her permission?
What about the campus security officers caught on video tasering a student in the campus library? Should the photographer (not a member of the press - just someone who happened to be on the scene) have gotten their permission before releasing the video?
What about the images of people running away from the falling WTC towers? Should they have the right to have their images removed, since their presence was not materially related to the event being covered - the destruction of the towers?
At what point between these three examples would you draw the line and why?
I should be able send them a picture of me, and my registration / house number, and tell them that I don't want them to appear on their site. They can do the checking for me as presumably they will profit in some way by publishing stuff about me.
The fact I live in the UK, htis is not an issue at the moment, maybe I should send my mugshot anyway.