Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More Potential Legal Troubles for Google Streetview

Ever since its introduction, Google Streetview has raised concerns about privacy (see, e.g., here). Now, Streetview is being prepared for Europe, and apparently French law is presenting a problem. According to this article from Computer World, under French law, you are not permitted to publish images of people going about their business without their permission. The article says that that's a problem for Streetview because it could require Google to employ "an army of clipboard-wielding legal assistants asking bystanders to sign release forms as they sip their coffee."

My initial take on it is that something about the article doesn't make sense. While I'm not familiar with French law, it seems unbelievable to me that any country would have regulations that prevent the publication of pictures taken in public. After all, if French law really did include that requirement, it would seem completely incompatible with newspapers publishing pictures of crowds, such as might appear at political rallies and sporting events. In any case though, if the article's portrayal of French law really is correct, then it's an example of where I think giving individuals control over some aspect of their persona (in this case their image) goes too far. The loss of privacy from allowing pictures to be published without permission is slight (if it shows up on Google Streetview it was, by hypothesis, visible to the public). By contrast, the cost is real - loss of a popular product which could spin off potentially interesting follow on technologies. Thus, in this case, assuming the choice is real, I'd have to come down on the side of Google, rather than on the side of individual control of information.

2 comments:

Kantor said...

thank you for an interesting post, I suggest to try better StreetView on the website of Fizber to explore city neighborhoods.

Rosa L. said...

i just tried StreetView on the website of Fizber, it is absolutely great!!