British privacy group aims to roadblock Google's Street View

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Google is set to start photographing areas in the UK for its Street View tool this week, but British rights groups are already up in arms about it and are threatening to call on the Information Commissioner to take action against it.

Google’s Street View tool, which has mapped over 30 US cities to date and now plans to map Europe, allows users to see streets from ground-level, with 360-degree panoramas, letting them virtually drive down a given street.

But the new mapping service has already given itself a bad name in the US, after people caught in Google’s photographers’ lenses showed up on the Internet without being warned.

Some were simply passing by, whilst others were unfortunate enough to be caught having a pee by the side of the road, sunbathing topless, being arrested, or even emerging from strip clubs.

Britain’s Privacy International is not impressed with Street View’s record thus far and says it reckons the technology breaks data protection laws.

Simon Davis, a spokesman for the privacy outfit said "In our view they need a person's consent if they make use of a person's face for commercial ends".

Google replied by stating it removed people’s photos from scenes upon request, and that it is now currently testing out a new face blurring technology developed using an algorithm that detects human faces in photographs.

Privacy International isn’t buying it though. The organisation says that Google has often made fanciful promises concerning privacy in the past and has so far been want to deliver.

One example is a pledge by the firm to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) during the Doubleclick acquisition, that "crumbling cookies" would be developed. This never panned out.

Another was a Google promise to release a " privacy dashboard" to help consumers understand the functionality of their user settings. This too is yet to materialise.

The search engine Behemoth also seems to be giving Privacy International the brush off, which the group find incredibly insulting. "We've spoken to Google in the past about this and received a snide response telling us to look more closely at their blogs", said Davis.

Angrily Davis concluded, "Google likes to think of itself as a global player. In reality it is acting like an irresponsible adolescent". Oo-er…sounds like Privacy International intends to get Google Earth’s street view grounded.

Pentagon slaps a ban on Google Street View (c) 2010 Incisive Media

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