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EU rattles sabre at Street View

Warn people you're coming, Google told

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The head of EU data protection agencies has told Google it must warn people of the impending arrival of its Orwellian Street View spymobiles.

According to AP, Alex Turk has written to Google's data privacy chief Peter Fleischer insisting that it "should always give advance notice on its website and in the local or national press before it takes pictures".

It must also avoid capturing snaps "of a sensitive nature and those containing intimate details not normally observable by a passer-by".

Furthermore, Turk is not impressed with Street View's "disproportionate" data retention policy, and wants all original unblurred Street View material deleted after six months.

Google defended that it already posts info as to where it's snooping. Citizens on the risk list today include the good burghers of Maidenhead, Vienna and Johannesburg.

Regarding the data retention issue, Google last year grudgingly agreed to an EU demand to delete original unblurred images, but was evasive about exactly when, insisting they were essential "to deal with any potential concerns from individuals who might feature incidentally on the Street View imagery".

Fleischer agreed 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".

Google's standard approach to Street View privacy concerns is to shoot first and negotiate later with individual countries. Finland, Germany, Greece and the UK are the EU members who've locked swords with the service, while the Swiss are waging their own private war on the spymobiles.

In the case of Finland, Street View caused a bit of a rumpus when an elevated spycam snapped a man with his pants down, even though he was behind a fence in his own garden. In Japan, Google received numerous complaints about footage captured from a camera poised "just over the height of garden walls and so on".

Google agreed to lower the cameras, and reshoot the 12 Japanese cities already covered. ®

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