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Google changes Street View privacy policy

Blurs faces and number plates on request

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Google has changed its privacy policy on its Street View feature to obscure faces and car number plates on request. Technology news site CNET News.com reports that the company policy change took place weeks ago but has only just come to light.

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.

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