Thursday, June 14, 2007

Google Pot Shots

As has been true for some time, it seems to be open season on Google. With great innovation, comes great.. um.. legal liability? Here's a very quick round up..

OUT-LAW restrainedly report "Google's Street View could be unlawful in Europe".

"Well, you can't say fairer than that " said an unamed source at Google..

The question here seems to be whether you view Google Street View as more like looking at the world with your own eyes, say from the top of a double decker bus (unconditionally legal) or as more like CCTV (regulated, at least in the EU, by DP law, and also by some case law of the ECHR, such as Peck). AS OUT-LAW note, if the latter paradigm is applied, then Google need to give adequate notice that surveillance is in operation to anyone who might be caught on STreet View and identifiable a a living person. Will we see 40 feet high billboards over London announcing "YOu are now on Google Maps. Be very afraid."? It reminds Pangloss of the old suggestion that London streets should be painted with the squares of the London A-Z for easy navigation.. One way out of this not identified by the otherwise excellent Struan Robertson, is the Durant v FSA get-out - it might be argued that no particular person is the focus of the attention of Google Street View and therefore no particular person has DP rights. Of course, Durant may not last forever:-)

More seriously, Google's privacy practice is apparently worse than Microsoft's. Yes, really Jemima - at least according to the much respected Privacy International, who surveyed a variety of Internet businesses. Results:

Privacy-friendly and privacy-enhancing. Nobody...

Generally privacy-aware: BBC, Ebay,, LiveJournal, Wikipedia

Notable lapses of privacy: Amazon, Bebo, Friendster, Linkedin, Myspace, Skype

Serious Lapses: Microsoft, OrKut, Xanga, YouTube

Substantial Threat to privacy: AOL, Apple, Facebook, Hi5,, Windows LiveSpaces, Yahoo

Hostile to privacy, comprehensive consumer surveillance: Google

Not everyone is convinced - see rebuttal at .

(With thanks to Pete Fenelon for tip off.)

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