The launch of Google’s Streetview service in March 2009 sparked considerable debate within the British media. Privacy campaigners criticised the intrusive nature of the service, which enables internet users to access 360 degree views of people, homes, cars and streets in 25 of Britain’s cities. It would appear that the Information Commissioner has now had his say on the matter. According to an article published in yesterday’s Observer newspaper, the Information Commissioner rejected a complaint brought by Privacy International which challenged the legality of the service. Notably, the Observer reports that the Commissioner dismissed the suggestion put forward by Privacy International that consent should have been sought from individuals whose image was captured in the pictures shown by Streetview. He apparently compared the Streetview service with images of individuals broadcast during televised football matches, where similarly consent would not be sought. Of course, Streetview is not the only part of Google’s operations which have given rise to privacy concerns. Not least in recent weeks, concerns have been raised about another Google innovation, which enables advertisers to target adverts on individual Google users by relying on site-visit profiles developed by Google. The so-called behavioural targeting system enables Google to build up a profile of the internet sites visited by a particular user when using the Google search engine. The profile is then used as a basis for indicating what advertising the user may be interested in. Concerns expressed about the new system have included that individuals are not asked whether they wish to receive targeted advertising and, further, that the right to opt out of the system is not adequately advertised to users.
Guardian article on Streetview:
Channel 4 report on Behavioural Targetting System