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UK: Residents challenge Google camera

BBC News Online
April 3rd, 2009

Angry residents in Milton Keynes blocked the driver of a Google Street View car when he started taking photographs of their homes.

Police were called to Broughton after residents staged the protest, accusing Google of invading their privacy and "facilitating crime".

Councillor John Bint told the BBC the camera mounted on a car was intrusive and people should have been consulted.

Google said it observed UK law and only filmed from public areas.

The company also said it had consulted various police forces and provided the means for residents to have their home removed from the service.

'Step too far'

Mr Bint said: "When a scene is viewed from street level it is acceptable but this camera is intrusive because it can peer into gardens and into the windows of homes.

"That is a step too far and Google should stop taking pictures in this way.

"They should consult with residents about what exactly they are going to do and provide a right of appeal."

The Street View mapping project allows for 360-degree views of roads and homes using footage taken by a camera mounted on a car.

Resident Paul Jacobs was one of the first residents in the village, which is part of Milton Keynes, to challenge the Google car.

Mr Jacobs said he saw the vehicle driving past his home on Wednesday and his first reaction was one of anger.

"I don't have a problem with Google wanting to promote villages. What I have a problem with is the invasion of privacy, taking pictures directly into the home," he said.

"Google have taken a tremendous liberty in the way they've gone about it.

"If they were simply going to view the street as a street scene rather than drive almost into people's drives and take pictures of the houses - I think that's a different issue."

Thames Valley Police said: "A squad car was sent to Broughton at 1020 BST on Wednesday to reports of a dispute between a crowd of people and a Google Street View contractor.

"A member of the public had called us to report that he, along with a number of others, were standing in the middle of the road preventing the car from moving forwards and taking photographs.

"They felt his presence was an intrusion of their privacy. When police arrived at the scene, the car had moved on."

Google's Peter Barron said the system contained "simple tools" which allowed people to remove images of their house.

He said: "Many, many millions of people have used the service very happily, and it's proved very useful.

"But we do recognise that a small minority of people won't feel comfortable about it."





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