Tom tries to put the Brake on Google Street View

by Stephen Tall on July 14, 2009

As today’s Times reports:

Google’s Street View service got off to a bumpy start in the UK as privacy campaigners tried to block Google’s car-mounted cameras from photographing Britain’s streets. Now, Google is heading off the beaten track.

The internet company has loaded its 3-D Street View cameras on to rickshaw-style tricycles in an effort to capture national landmarks, monuments and sights that cannot be viewed from a car.

The pictures will form part of Street View, a mapping service from Google that gives 360-degree views of the country’s biggest cities, allowing people to take virtual tours from their computers or mobile phones.

However Lib Dem MP tom Brake is less-than-impressed:

Sceptics warned yesterday that any abuses of the service could reignite legal claims against the company.

“Off-road, Google must show even greater respect for privacy that on the street,” said Tom Brake MP, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman. “If they don’t, they may capture more than they bargained for as they pedal silently along our remotest lanes and cycleways.”

Back in March, Tom stated his concerns with Street View in the Commons:

In the past couple of days, Google has launched another application called Street View, through which people can look at different streets in different cities around the country. The technology is moving so fast that my concern is whether the Government, the Information Commissioner and everyone else who needs to be involved can get ahead of the technological curve, or whether they will always be trying to catch up with technology that is continually pushing at the barriers and putting such images into the public domain. Interestingly, the police were asked about Street View, and they said that it was useful, because it would help to cut crime. I am not sure whether that suggests that there will be a working relationship between the police and Google Street View to ensure that those images are shared. If so, I would be interested to know what the data protection issues are and what dialogue took place before that application was made live—it is now live. Will the Minister say precisely what is happening in terms of all those technological developments and what the discussion process is before applications that potentially threaten our privacy are released by commercial companies?