Google Street View Meeting EU Privacy Guidelines

    June 12, 2009

Google has announced it is making additional privacy modifications to its Street View project in Europe.

Google says it is continuing to work with the Article 29 Working Party, which brings together representatives from all 27 European Data Protection Authorities. It is complying with European authorities request to provide advance notice to the public about the Street View project before driving in a new country.

The Article 29 Working Party has requested that Google set a time limit on how long it retains unblurred photos of panoramas in Street View.

The Google European Public Policy Blog provides additional details. "To explain the issue here, although the images you see on Street View have faces and car license plates blurred out, we have to collect an original ‘unblurred’ copy of that image first. We then apply our highly sophisticated blurring technology and we make sure that only the blurred copy is ever made public."

Blurred Horse

Google said its software occasionally falsely flags images as containing a face or a license plate when those images are actually not in the picture. As an example, Google points to the blurring of a horse.

"That’s why we’re constantly working on ways to improve our technology, and we are constantly training it to detect more of the relevant stuff, while reducing the number of ‘false positives’ it creates," the company says in its blog post.

"To do this, though, we need access to the original unblurred copies of the images. Nevertheless, we’ve communicated to the Article 29 Working Party that we will meet their request that long term we only keep the blurred copy of Street View panoramas, and we will work with them and our engineers to determine the shortest retention period that also allows for legitimate use under EU laws."