Feeds

Google to delete Street View source images

Privacy watchdog growls - Google grudgingly complies

Top three mobile application threats

European privacy watchdogs have demanded that Google delete the original images behind its Street View service. The company has said it will comply with the demand in the "long term".

Street View has raised privacy concerns wherever it has launched but the UK's privacy regulator the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said that Google's privacy protections are good enough to protect people's privacy.

A committee of all 27 EU member states' privacy regulators, the Article 29 Working Party, has asked Google to ensure, though, that original images are destroyed once they have been used to create blurred images that the public can see.

When introducing Street View to Europe, Google undertook to automatically blur faces and vehicle number plates to protect the privacy of people photographed on the street.

It retains the unblurred originals, and says that these are vital for correcting errors. It has agreed, though, to delete those once they are no longer being used.

"The Article 29 Working Party has asked that we set a time limit on how long we keep the unblurred copies of panoramas from Street View, in a way that appropriately balances the use of this data for legitimate purposes with the need to deal with any potential concerns from individuals who might feature incidentally on the Street View imagery," said Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, in a blog post.

Fleischer said that the original images were useful to Google because its automated software was not yet perfect.

"One of the technical challenges at stake with Street View – or any service that uses image detector software – is that the software sometimes makes mistakes, labelling part of the image as containing a face or a license plate when in fact it doesn't. While we like to think we've gotten pretty good at this stuff, we still have lots of these 'false positives'," he said. "We're constantly working on ways to improve our technology, and we are constantly training it to detect more of the relevant stuff, while reducing the number of 'false positives' it creates. To do this, though, we need access to the original unblurred copies of the images."

Google has said that it will comply with the Working Party's request for image deletion, though.

"We've communicated to the Article 29 Working Party that we will meet their request that long term we only keep the blurred copy of Street View panoramas, and we will work with them and our engineers to determine the shortest retention period that also allows for legitimate use under EU laws," said Fleischer.

The Working Party also asked Google to publicise where and when it will collect images.

"They have asked us to continue to provide advance notice to the public about the project before we start driving in a new country," said Fleischer.

The company said that it would try to comply with that request where possible.

"[It] can be tricky at times to say exactly where our cars will be and when; we're affected by lots of things outside our control such as the weather and lighting conditions, we also rely on the local knowledge of our drivers to decide which places it is best to drive when, taking into account traffic conditions and other local factors," said Fleischer. "Nonetheless, we are committed to working within the Article 29 Working Party's guidelines on this issue."

See: Fleischer's announcement

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

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

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.