UK data watchdog ticks Google Street View

The UK Information Commissioner has declared the privacy safeguards Google uses in its Street View service to be ‘adequate’.

Street View service takes photographs of a city’s streets and publishes them together as a photo-map of a city. However, individuals can be identified in some images, raising privacy concerns.

To deal with these, Google is developing face and vehicle number plate blurring technologies which it is using in the bringing together of a Paris Street View service. Individuals can complain if they feel they are identifiable withing images, in which case the company will remove those images.

That’s enough for the UK Information Commissioner, who said in a statement: “We are satisfied that Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including the blurring of vehicle registration marks and the faces of anyone included in Streetview images.

“Although it is possible that in certain limited circumstances an image may allow the identification of an individual, it is clear that Google are keen to capture images of streets and not individuals,” said the ICO. “Further there is an easy mechanism by which individuals can report an image that causes them concern to Google and request that it is removed.”

“Images are not ‘real time’ and there is a delay between taking an image and its publication so that it could not be used to make decisions about an individual’s current whereabouts,” it added.

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