Google Street Views illegal in Canada?

By | September 13, 2007

There is an interesting article on CBC’s website discussing Canada’s privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart’s look into the privacy issues surrounding Google’s high resolution image mapping service. Stoddart claims that it is possible that Google is violating the country’s privacy laws by capturing high resolution images of unsuspecting citizens.

We had previously talked about Google’s street-level mapping service and mentioned the thorny privacy issues especially considering websites such as streetviewr.com. Interestingly, the image data used for Street Views is collected and compiled by a Canadian company, the Calgary-based Immersive Media.

For the time being, Google Street Views is only available for US cities but I am certain they plan to expand abroad sooner than later.

In a letter directed to Google and Immersive Media, Stoddart said,

I am concerned that, if the Street View application were deployed in Canada, it might not comply with our federal privacy legislation. In particular, it does not appear to meet the basic requirements of knowledge, consent, and limited collection and use as set out in the legislation.

I don’t know what others think about having photos of themselves posted online without their consent, but I know I don’t want my photograph there, regardless of the activity I may be doing at the time the Immersive Media car drives by. Google can use face detection technology to detect and blur the faces of all the people appearing in the images. There are lots of algorithms that can do this job reliably and efficiently. Doing this would definitely comply with the company’s “Do no evil” motto.

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