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Daily Mail rails at Street View in women's refuge wrongness

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The Daily Mail has launched an attack on Google Street View, following claims that the search giant's service reveals the location of a womens' refuge.

However, a leading UK support organisation told El Reg that Google has gone out of its way to keep the locations of its safe houses off Street View. This suggests that the Mail's strident argument that Google Street View is putting women at risk is more than a little exaggerated.

A spokeswoman for Refuge, the UK-based domestic violence charity, explained that most women's refuges in the UK operate as safe houses. Refuge tries to keep listings for its network of safe houses off Street View and excluded from business directories.

Google consulted Refuge prior to launching Street View and removed the locations of its safe houses. Refuge hasn't had any problems and believes the issue involves an independent safe house, a spokeswoman told El Reg.

The Daily Mail bases its claim that Google Street View is <a target="_blank" href="putting women at risk on remarks this week by Conservative MP Mark Lancaster, in a Parliamentary debate on internet privacy. The Milton Keynes MP said he was contacted by an unnamed refuge after its identity was revealed by Google Street View. The search giant declined to remove a picture of the outside of the refuge together with its address and postcode, according to Lancaster.

If the request was over the image of a particular woman or group of women captured by Google's spy Opels, we'd be in complete sympathy for these concerns. The need to keep the location of certain types of buildings as confidential is much more debatable, especially when this kind of information tends to be well known locally or at least easily discovered.

Neither Google nor any women's refuge are quoted in the article.

We hold no brief for Google Street View but the Mail has gone out on a limb on this one, possibly to tap into prevailing and more well grounded concerns about open Wi-Fi snooping by Google's fleet of Street View cars.

Amusingly the Daily Mail piece contains an apology to Google for an earlier alarmist story. The paper was obliged to clarify that Google doesn't sell "individual users’ data to third parties, contrary to claims in an article published on Thursday. ®

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