Google wins Street View privacy case
An American couple who attempted to sue Google over what they claimed was its “privacy invading” Street View technology have lost their case in a Pennsylvania court.
Aaron and Christine Boring brought their case against the online search giant in April, accusing it of privacy violation, negligence, unjust enrichment and trespassing for showing their home in the Street View feature, which adds 360-degree street-level photographs to Google’s world maps. They were seeking more than $25,000 (£17,400) in compensation and damages.
Google is slowly photographing every street in the US and has also started a low-profile extension of the project in the UK and other countries, leading to some concerns among privacy groups about the level of detail in the images.
One San Francisco resident complained in May 2007 after photos showed her cat sitting on a perch inside her living room, while privacy groups criticised Google for including individual faces and car registration plates in earlier versions of the service.
Despite the concerns, in yesterday’s ruling Judge Amy Hay concluded that the Borings could not prove they had suffered as a result of having their home photographed, particularly as they had not contacted Google to request that the images be removed. The Borings also made public their home address on court documents.
“While it is easy to imagine that many whose property appears on Google’s virtual maps resent the privacy implications, it is hard to believe that any – other than the most exquisitely sensitive – would suffer shame or humiliation,” said Judge Hay.
“The plaintiffs’ failure to take readily available steps to protect their own privacy and mitigate their alleged pain suggests to the court that the intrusion and their suffering were less severe than they contend.”
Google said in a statement that it respects individual privacy and offers various protections to people concerned about the Street View tool.
“We are pleased that the judge agreed that this suit was without merit,” the firm added. “We blur faces in Street View and we offer easy-to-use removal tools so users can decide for themselves whether or not they want a given image to appear in Street View. It is unfortunate the parties involved decided to pursue litigation instead of making use of these tools.”
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