Japanese StreetView is facing a variety of complaints

japan-streetviewThe Japanese version of Google StreetView is facing an increasingly higher number of complaints, about a variety of topics.  Along with the usual complaints (faces, license plates), there is the issue of people using the images on secondary sites for the purposes of discrimination and bullying.

To help combat this, Google has set up a new system that makes it easier for users to report problems.  They even allow users to report problems with secondary sites, which Google will then deal with (ask for removal, legal action, etc).

The concern now is that this action might not be enough.  I guess only time will tell.

Swiss want StreetView Disabled

It’s only been up for a few days, but the Switzerland Data Protection office is asking Google to remove the StreetView imagery they’ve shot in the country.  Their primary concern seems to be that “many faces and vehicle number plates had not been covered up or were insufficiently blurred”.  If memory serves, that’s not even something Google is legally obligated to do — they simply do it to avoid outcry from privacy advocates like this, though I’m sure the laws vary from country to country.

Hanspeter Thuer from the Data Protection team plans to meet with Google next week and help them “improve” the service.  It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of this.

Minnesota city demands removal of StreetView images

The 4,500 resident city of North Oaks, MN has demanded that Google remove StreetView imagery of their town.  However, they’re not a typical town, in that all of their roads are owned by the residents (meaning they’re private) and the city enforces a trespassing ordinanace.

While it’s certainly unique, since no other city has made a similar request, it seems that they’re well within their rights to request that, since the roads are private.

It makes me wonder if other cities (with public roads) will request this.  It would be interesting to see what happens with those.

More about StreetView privacy

Google has just put up a post on their LatLong blog with some of their thoughts about privacy expectations in StreetView.

It’s kind of a rambling post (paragraph break, anyone?) and there’s nothing too exciting in there, but here are some snippets:

  • “…we designed a simple process for anyone to contact us and have their image removed.” (note: When viewing an image, click on “Street View Help” at the top and you’ll find a link to report the image.
  • “…people don’t have the same expectations of privacy as they do in their homes.”
  • “…Street View will respect local laws…” (repeated a few more times with different wording)

It seems like kind of a random post, but maybe they felt they should put up an official stance on the privacy issues surrounding StreetView.  Prior to this, I don’t think they’ve done anything but respond to criticism against it (example 1, 2).

Stephen Chau, product manager for Google Maps, addresses Street View privacy issues

Freakonomics has an interview with Stephen Chau, the product manager for Google Maps.  Their questions all address the new Street View feature of Map.  In the interview, Chau addresses some of the privacy concerns that have been raised.

Some snippets:

  • “At Google we take privacy very seriously. Street View only features imagery taken on public property and is not in real time. This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street.”
  • ” …we respect the fact that people may not want imagery they feel is objectionable featured on the service. We provide easily accessible tools for flagging inappropriate or sensitive imagery for review and removal.”
  • “We routinely review takedown requests and act quickly to remove objectionable imagery. “

Nothing too groundbreaking in there, but it’s a good read.  You can read the full interview here.