September 14, 2009

Brits bristle at Google’s ogling

Broughton, England, residents say they don't want detailed photos of their village on Google Street Finder, so they refuse to cooperate with photographers.

Street View, part of the Google Maps feature, allows Internet users close-up, 360-degree views of streets, houses and other buildings as well as yards, parks, schoolyards and pretty much any other public place that's outside.

Edward Butler-Ellis, 28, a Broughton resident, recalled fellow residents' reaction to the arrival of a Google photographer's vehicle.

I don't think this guy anticipated how angry people would get, Butler-Ellis told the Los Angeles Times. We didn't stand there with pitchforks or anything and block the road with bales of hay, but obviously people were agitated. . . . A car with a pole with a camera on top of it causes suspicions.

Other European locations also oppose having photos of their towns appear on the Internet.

Europe's generally strict laws on privacy have slowed Google's attempt to include photographs of European locations, the Times reported.

In Switzerland, people object to being caught on camera in compromising circumstances.

Some also fear that the Web photos might be used by strangers for burglary or blackmail, the newspaper said.

Google Inc. said it would work harder to scramble people's faces and automobile license plates in uploaded photos.

The blurring technology is very effective and catches most faces and license plates in the millions of pictures we take, said Kay Oberbeck, chief spokeswoman for the Google's German, Swiss, and Austrian operations. We give everybody the opportunity to inform us of any problematic image they might see, and usually it is taken down within hours,

The company said it is working with a European data-protection task force to determine how long it will retain raw, unaltered data.

Google said it will also give residents better warning of when the cameras will roll into town, Oberbeck said.