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Info Commissioner contacted 74 times over Street View

Possibly all from that chap filmed peeing in the street

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The case referred to was about photographs of Harry Potter author JK Rowling's then-infant son.

"If the photographs had been taken… to show the scene in a street by a passer-by and later published as street scenes, that would be one thing, but they were not taken as street scenes but were taken deliberately, in secret and with a view to their subsequent publication," wrote Sir Anthony Clarke in that ruling. "They were taken for the purpose of publication for profit, no doubt in the knowledge that the parents would have objected to them."

"It is not clear to me from your complaint which provisions of the law you feel have been breached though you do imply that it is unlawful to obtain images of people and use them without consent. In data protection terms this is simply not true," wrote Evans from the ICO. "Consent is just one of the grounds for processing personal data and the regulatory focus must be on whether the processing is fair to individuals who might be identified and what safeguards are in place to deal with those relatively rare situations where it is not."

Technology lawyer Struan Robertson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, has previously identified that Google may have breached the Data Protection Act while collecting images for Street View because people were not informed that photos were being taken. But he has said that this is not an important breach because Google would have to have broadcast the collection over loudspeakers from cars, which would not be practical.

The ICO agreed in the analysis it sent to Davies.

"It would clearly be impracticable to provide what the Act terms fair processing information to any individual who happened to be in a public place at the same time as the Google cameras," it said. "We would not expect any organisation collecting images in this way to go to such lengths unless the images were being collected for purposes which required the identification of individuals and which resulted in some decision being taken about them."

Evans's letter contained a stout defence of the broadly-welcomed pragmatic approach taken by the ICO in this regard. It outlined why a massive commercial service should not be halted because of some relatively minor privacy concerns of relatively few people.

"Our data protection strategy commits us to basing our interventions on what actually matters to those we are seeking to protect and how likely it is to occur," said Evans, responding to Davies's charge that neither Google nor the ICO consulted the community on the impact of Street View. "We do take the 'community expectations' into account but it is clear to us that the 'community' expect that good regulation is, to a large extent, pragmatic regulation. In our opinion, there is no clear evidence that the community find Streetview particularly harmful or insidious."

Read the ICO's letter to Davies here.

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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