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Aftermath of an auto accident caught by a Google Street View camera car  (Source: Google)
After receiving complaints regarding certain offensive images, Google has removed some of their Street View photos.

Although Google’s Street View service began with a great deal of publicity, complaints regarding certain offensive images have forced the organization to remove some photos.
Dozens of images have already been taken out of the UK Street View collection. It is thought the pictures removed contained revealing images of homes, a man entering a London sex shop, people being arrested and a man being sick.

One Google spokesperson explained that anyone who asks could have their images removed.

As for those photos that already have been deleted, Google’s Laura Scott said, "We've got millions of images, so the percentage removed was very small...We want this to be a useful tool, and it's people's right to have their image removed." 

"The fact there are now gaps [in Street View] shows how responsive we are," Scott added.

Street View is now available in a total of nine countries. It first began in the U.S. in May 2007 and since has spread to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain and Italy. On Thursday, it was additionally launched in the Netherlands.

Imagery available through the service is taken along streets by customized camera cars. Camera cars in the UK, for example, have enabled their version to consist of 22,369 miles of UK streets and to include street scenes in 25 UK cities, from Aberdeen to Southampton. Some people, have managed to find themselves somewhere in the imagery containing these miles of streets. 

People have also managed to find ways to view the removed offensive photos by moving up or down a notch on the street. A black image with the message "This image is no longer available" has replaced each offensive photo, but apparently this does not provide blockage at all different angles.

Dr. Ian Brown, a privacy expert at the Oxford Internet Institute, was not surprised that there were some offensive photos: "This is exactly what you would expect from a service that relies on individuals to help Google not make mistakes." 

"They [Google] should have thought more carefully about how they designed the service to avoid exactly this sort of thing," Brown added.  

Dr. Brown also said that Google could have taken images twice, on different days. This way, any offending images could have been easily replaced and could have also protected privacy better.

Google assures it has gone to great lengths to ensure privacy. Its face recognition technology, for example, blurs all faces and registration plates captured by the camera cars. Last year, the Information Commissioner’s office ruled that this blurring was sufficient in ensuring that privacy was upheld.

Google also says Street View only displays imagery that is already visible from public thoroughfares.

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RE: ?
By Moishe on 3/23/2009 9:42:33 AM , Rating: 3
The problem is that he isn't thinking. Privacy is like anything else, we need it and there should be some expectation of privacy in certain areas, but in the street, you should not be able to object to your image being taken. Public is *public* and it's the responsibility of the individual to behave within society's rules when in public.

RE: ?
By ElementZero on 3/23/2009 9:53:44 AM , Rating: 2
What a moron. Surely those camera take pictures with either a timer or something that is hooked into the mileage of the car (or it counts mileage itself). That being said, being able to get the EXACT frame of the picture as the previous one would be impossible.

RE: ?
By sapster86 on 3/23/2009 10:04:44 AM , Rating: 3
I'm guessing the system works in a similar way to aerial survey data capture, there will be predetermined data capture points along the route (that insure there is an overlap both forwards and to the side so a seamless route can be created) and the onboard GPS that geotags each photo will also be use to tell the computer to take the photos at these predetermined points.

RE: ?
By Triple Omega on 3/23/2009 10:16:22 AM , Rating: 3
But what is public? If my picture isn't being taken the only people that can see me are the ones that are around me at that moment. If I act accordingly I could put myself into a situation that I would be comfortable with only with those people. If at that moment a camera-car drives by and takes my picture, suddenly the rules have changed and hundreds of millions of people could possibly see me in that situation.

So there is no one definition of public, it all depends on the situation. And as long as people don't want everyone to know everything about them there will be "public" situations that they will want to keep between them and the people around at that moment.

RE: ?
By Moishe on 3/23/2009 10:39:36 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that there are different idea of public, but you are walking on the street in plain view. Someone takes a pic of you... is that fine? Is it fine if that image is posted online? Is it the odds of a million people seeing you?

Lets face it, if you don't want to be seen, stay indoors or wear a hood. Don't burden others with preemptively protecting your privacy, protect your own preemptively and accept it when you haven't done that well enough.

RE: ?
By Triple Omega on 3/23/2009 11:15:40 AM , Rating: 2
Thats not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about being seen, but being seen in certain situations.

For example, an American going to the Netherlands on holiday might not want to be seen by other Americans smoking marijuana for fear of making the wrong impression. He or she would however be fine with the locals seeing it as they find it normal and they don't know them.

There are also plenty of situations imaginable where a picture could easily be wrongfully interpreted as it is just a snapshot of a moment in time and often without context.

It's like talking on the phone in a café. You might not care that the people around you can hear what your saying as you don't know them and they don't know you. You wouldn't want it to be taped and posted on the internet however as people that DO know you might hear it.

RE: ?
By PlasmaBomb on 3/23/2009 11:39:01 AM , Rating: 2
'Fraid of the wife finding out about the affair Omega?

RE: ?
By artemicion on 3/23/2009 12:19:06 PM , Rating: 2
Gonna have to agree with Omega, I don't think 'privacy' is as simple as a binary condition that depends on broad categories of areas that are considered 'private' and 'public'.

I have varying degrees of the level of privacy I expect both indoors and outdoors. If I have a ground-level apartment on a busy street with a lot of pedestrians, I'm not going to sit naked next to an open window and expecting privacy. Similarly, if I'm driving down a remote highway and pull over to take a piss, I wouldn't expect somebody to pop out with a camera just because I'm in 'public'.

I think privacy is more properly analyzed as thinking about what a reasonable person expects in a given situation. I think the street-view scenario presents a case that is both novel and borderline, as I suspect that, despite the proliferation of image-recording devices out there, many people don't expect their picture to be taken on the street at random points in the day. Even less people would expect that picture to be disseminated to the public at large on the internet. Technologically, we're probably at a turning point as cheaper and more sophisticated surveilance equipment gets out in the public, people will adapt and start buying their illicit goodies on the internet.

RE: ?
By LRonaldHubbs on 3/23/2009 2:54:03 PM , Rating: 2
You're missing the point to the same degree as Omega did. You can think whatever you want about what *should* be private, but it comes down to a matter of practicality. Everyone has their own ideas of what they would like to remain private, but there's no way to account for what every single person wants. It's much easier to just say that private property stays private and public property anything goes (within reason, of course). What has traditionally been protected in court is a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the expectation of privacy in a public place is anything but reasonable. It really is that simple.

Also, public unrination is illegal, so you shouldn't be pissing by the side of the highway anyway. Not saying I haven't done it, just saying, you aren't entitled to privacy in a public place, much less during the comission of a crime.

RE: ?
By Oregonian2 on 3/24/2009 12:50:05 PM , Rating: 2
Also, public unrination is illegal, so you shouldn't be pissing by the side of the highway anyway. Not saying I haven't done it, just saying, you aren't entitled to privacy in a public place, much less during the comission of a crime.

Dogs must put put in the slammer a LOT in your neck of the woods. :-)

RE: ?
By jRaskell on 3/23/09, Rating: 0
RE: ?
By LRonaldHubbs on 3/23/2009 11:41:34 AM , Rating: 2
Your argument is tangential to this discussion because you are using 'public' in a different context. Public when talking about roads simply means not privately owned -- owned by the state, paid for by citizens through government. 'Reasonable expectation of privacy' is the wording commonly used to describe the protection citizens have within the confines of their own property (in house, car, etc). However, the expectation of privacy is not reasonable in public space and therefore is generally not protected. If you put yourself into an undesirable situation while in public, too bad.

RE: ?
By afkrotch on 3/23/2009 8:42:00 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that he isn't thinking. Privacy is like anything else, we need it and there should be some expectation of privacy in certain areas, but in the street, you should not be able to object to your image being taken. Public is *public* and it's the responsibility of the individual to behave within society's rules when in public.

How about the times when the Google van decides to drive up a private driveway or community and starts snapping pictures.

RE: ?
By Pryde on 3/24/2009 1:02:46 AM , Rating: 2
Most Private Roads/Driveways in my area are not clearly marked, when I started my job working for the local Council Roading Company I had to learn where all these were and there was a surprising amount of unmarked Private Roads that we do not care for. It is easy to see how the google drivers can be mistaken.

If you have any complaint that the google van has taken pictures from private property they are more than happy to remove the images

RE: ?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/26/2009 8:06:44 AM , Rating: 2
That is true that anything in plain view does not rise to the level of reasonable expectation of privacy for purposes of 4th amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. However, this is a private company trying to stay in business by accommodating the wishes of its users and advertisers. So it can either make the decision to stay in business by complying where it is not too difficult, as here, or it can stand firm, and go out of business, where even the fruits of victory, will be as ashes in (its) mouth.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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