The ICO has today announced that a common sense approach should be taken when dealing with Google Street View.
After being given the go-ahead by the UK Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in July 2008, Google Street View was later launched in the UK in March of this year. Since the launch there has been a vast number of complaints chastising Street View, claiming that it risks the privacy of UK citizens. This led to a complaint being made to the ICO by lobby group Privacy International (PI) which cited over 200 reports of complaints from members of the public.
In a press release issued today the ICO has commented that it is important that Google ensures that images of people's faces or car number plates are distorted in order to protect privacy. The ICO further commentated that Google is obliged to respond promptly to requests from members of the public that images should be removed from the site. The ICO does not however agree with PI that Street View should be shut down.
The ICO has emphasised that it is very unlikely that Google Street View will breach the Data Protection Act. David Evans, the Senior Data Protection Practice Manager commented "some football fans' faces will be captured on Match of the Day and local news programmes this weekend – perfectly legally. In the same way there is no law against anyone taking pictures of people in the street as long as the person using the camera is not harassing people."
Much to the undoubted disappointment of PI the ICO has decided not to stifle innovation on the basis that Google Street View causes limited intrusion of privacy. The ICO will continue to review Google Street View and will consider complaints made by members of the public where Google has refused to remove inappropriate images. Until this happens however we are safe to watch our friends roam the streets using Google Street View.