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OTTAWA -- Canada's Privacy Commissioner has raised concerns over a new Google program that lets users view and zoom in on street-level photographs that are so clear and precise, they can pinpoint an unknowing bystander and their exact location with the click of a mouse button.

 

Google's new Street View application uses photographs captured at an earlier date to let computer users navigate through city streets and neighbourhoods in major cities quickly and easily.

But the program, which relies on pictures taken without the knowledge or consent of people in them, seems to violate many basic rights of citizens and poses a serious threat to personal privacy, according to Jennifer Stoddart.

 

Pictures available on the Street View application -- which so far only shows images of U.S. cities -- showcase the embarrassing to the mundane. From a man waiting for the bus to a person coming out of a pornography shop, all of the images can be quickly and easily accessed just by going online. Numerous Web sites have already popped up to allow users to post funny or embarrassing photographs of people and places spotted using the Street View application.

 

Although the program only focuses on the United States at this point, Google is eager to expand the service. "We're focused on making this service available in as many cities as possible," Google spokeswoman Wendy Rozeluk wrote an in e-mail. "We will be adding Street View imagery for new cities on an ongoing basis."

 

The program's potential risks have prompted the privacy commissioner to send letters this week to Google -- and the Canadian company that has been providing some of the photographs -- outlining her concerns and seeking an explanation over whether sufficient precautions and safeguards are in place to protect privacy.

 

"The problem is it's a slippery slope when it comes to privacy rights," said Colin McKay, spokesman for the federal privacy commissioner's office. "You can read house numbers and see street signs. You can clearly see facial characteristics."

 

Unlike other mapping programs, which use grainy satellite images, the new street-view program allows users to view crisp photographs of pedestrians, homes, businesses and traffic taken from the street level. Many of the photographs are believed to have been taken using high-resolution video cameras mounted on cars as they drive through cities.

 

Google said it places a high priority on privacy and is not doing anything wrong.

 

"This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street. Imagery of this kind is available in a wide variety of formats for cities all around the world," Ms. Rozeluk said.

 

But the privacy commissioner is concerned that if the service is expanded into Canada, it could violate federal privacy laws designed to protect citizens from having their personal information easily accessible.

 

The street-view application "does not appear to meet the basic requirements of knowledge, consent, and limited collection and use" of personal information that is set out in Canada's privacy laws, the commissioner wrote in her letter to Google's chief legal officer David Drummond.

 

The commissioner is also taking aim at Calgary-based Immersive Media Corp., a digital video imaging company that is responsible for taking many of the photographs that appear on the Google street-view application.

 

Despite the fact the Google application isn't available in Canadian cities yet, the commissioner's office is particularly concerned with the fact Immersive Media's Web site boasts that it has already collected digital images of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.

 

The company also appears to have already made the images from those cities commercially available on their Web site, which raises concerns about the inability of individuals to maintain their privacy.

 

"Many of the images are of sufficient resolution and close enough to allow individuals to be identified, to discern what activities they are engaged in and to situate their geographic whereabouts," Ms. Stoddart wrote in a letter to Immersive Media CEO Myles McGovern.

 

Google has agreed to remove some photographs of people upon request of an individual, but the commissioner said that is only a "partial solution" and doesn't address the fact some people may not even be aware their images are publicly available.

 

(Courtesy of CanWest News Service)

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Photo: Pablo Stevenson

 

Google photographie les rues de Montréal

 

 

Marie-Eve Morasse et André Simard

13 septembre 2007 - 16h31

 

 

Une voiture identifiée au logo de Google Maps a été aperçue ces jours-ci dans les rues de Montréal. Signe que Google offrira bientôt une vue à hauteur d'homme de la métropole grâce à l'outil Street View?

 

Pablo Stevenson a aperçu la fameuse voiture de Google Maps au coin des rues Drolet et Mozart hier midi près de son bureau.

 

La voiture a immédiatement attiré son attention. Il a eu le temps de la photographier avec un téléphone cellulaire.

 

Alain Menier, un lecteur de Technaute, dit quant à lui avoir aperçu une voiture semblable au coin des rues Berri et Saint-Joseph, mardi.

 

«La voiture était identifiée au nom de Google Maps et était très remarquable, vu la caméra multidirectionnelle installée sur le toit, au bout d'un mât d'environ quatre ou cinq pieds», précise M. Menier.

 

C'est en sillonnant les rues avec des voitures équipées de caméras sur le toit que Google a conçu son outil Google Street View, lancé en mai dernier.

 

Cette fonction de Google Maps permet aux internautes de voir les rues des villes comme s'ils y marchaient.

 

Google a d'abord photographié les rues de San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Denver et Miami, avant d'ajouter à son site les images de Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston et Orlando.

 

Mais l'ajout de cette fonctionnalité ne s'est pas fait sans heurts, plusieurs soulevant des craintes pour la vie privée des gens dont l'image se retrouve sur Google.

 

Cette semaine, c'est la commissaire à la protection de la vie privée du Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, qui a dit craindre que ce nouvel outil ne contrevienne à la loi canadienne.

 

Chez Immersive Media, l'entreprise qui a été chargée par Google de recueillir les images de sept des neuf villes américaines répertoriées dans Google Street View, une employée affirme qu'aucune voiture de l'entreprise ne se trouve actuellement dans les rues de Montréal.

 

Une porte-parole de Google souligne pour sa part que la firme de Mountain View compte offrir le service Street View pour le plus de villes possibles. «Nous ne fournissons aucun détail supplémentaire quant à l'horaire de collecte d'images pour l'instant», ajoute-t-elle.

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uh... it's impossible to actually identify anyone using google street view. besides, the images are static. how could it be used to stalk someone?

 

 

well you can identify someone, stalking, I don't know.

 

But let say you see your wife entering some strange house... heheheh wouldn't that be a breach of her privacy :P

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:confused:

well you can identify someone, stalking, I don't know.

 

But let say you see your wife entering some strange house... heheheh wouldn't that be a breach of her privacy :P

 

if you can not trust your spouse, why even get married:confused:

 

plus what are the odds that day your spouse is cheating on you and google picks it up.

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its just anecdoctical.

 

There has been examples of google street picking up a man coming out of a porn shop, another pissing outdoors, etc etc.

 

all i can say they should have thought before they did anything like that. if they feel ashamed of going into a porno shop, honestly who cares.

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