Commentary

Google Hits More Privacy Speedbumps

Google's privacy woes in Europe just keep mounting. Earlier this week, three company executives were convicted of criminally violating a disabled teen's privacy based on a YouTube clip uploaded by high school students. Now, it's come to light that privacy officials with the E.U. are demanding that Google destroy photos for Street View within six months.

"It is disproportionate to retain unblurred copies of the images for one year," the E.U.'s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said in a Feb. 11 letter to Google, Bloomberg reported today.

Officials in Switzerland have gone even further. Last year, they said they would sue Google to force it to blur images and remove some photos.

Even though Google allows people to remove images of their homes, the Street View feature has troubled some U.S. residents as well. So far, however, Google has largely prevailed in the only dispute about the feature to result in litigation. In that matter, a couple in Pittsburgh sued Google for allegedly trespassing on a private road to take photos of the outside of their home.

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But a federal appellate court recently ruled that the couple had no grounds to bring suit. "No person of ordinary sensibilities would be shamed, humiliated, or have suffered mentally as a result of a vehicle entering into his or her ungated driveway and photographing the view from there," the court wrote.

The European courts might not see the issue that way, however. For one thing, Europe has far broader privacy laws than the U.S. Additionally, Europe doesn't have as strong a tradition of protecting free speech as the U.S., where people typically have the right to photograph and post what they see in public.

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