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Google's spycar revs up UK privacy fears

Privacy campaigners launch Street View ambush

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Google's Street View cars, which grab real photographs of streets and the people in them for the search giant's Maps service, have come under fire from privacy campaigners.

The spycar has been spotted in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff. A Reg reader was kind enough to send us a snap of the snapper-car in London. The pictures the car takes subsequently get loaded into Google Maps.

Privacy International has complained to the Information Commissioner's Office.

A spokeswoman for the ICO told the Reg: "Yes, we have received a complaint about this and we are looking into it. We are contacting Google to get more details of the scheme."

Google has said it would be blurring Europeans' faces in Street View, which it is doing retroactively in the US too, in order to respect privacy. The service has had a tough time in the US - and was criticised for pictures of a woman's thong and a piddling builder. It is being sued by one couple who claim they were photographed in their swimming pool.

The search giant will remove pictures on request in the US, and is also blurring vehicle number plates.

Google's invasion of Europe's streets comes as the ICO calls for changes to European data protection laws which it says are failing to keep up with changing technology. The ICO has hired RAND Corporation to review European data protection laws to find possible areas of reform.

Richard Thomas, UK ICO, said: "European data protection law is increasingly seen as out of date, bureaucratic and excessively prescriptive. It is showing its age and is failing to meet new challenges to privacy, such as the transfer of personal details across international borders and the huge growth in personal information online.

"It is high time the law is reviewed and updated for the modern world." ®

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