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Google Street View - Privacy Concerns in Canada

On May 25, 2007, Google released Street View, a new feature of Google Maps which provides 360 panoramic street-level views of various U.S. cities. On this date, the feature only included five cities, but has since expanded to fifteen, with plans for more U.S. and Canadian cities in the future. The application raises privacy concerns because of its close-up views of city streets and recognisable shots of people. Images showing people beeing arrested, sunbathing and urinating in the public, have been found by users (see e.g. 10 bizarre sights in Google Street View).

The new feature probably meets U.S. privacy standards because the U.S. has a long tradition of treating public spaces as truly public. But the new feature might not be legal in countries with stricter privacy laws. Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA) e.g. requires private companies to obtain consent of consumers to collect, use or disclosure their personal information. In order to comply with Canadian laws, Google is willing to blur identifiable faces and license plates. But according to Margaret Ann Wilkinson, a professor of law and information and media studies at the University of Western Ontario, this might not be enough: "If an individual can be readily identified by his or her body, clothing or location, it might still be considered a violation."

The Google cam-cars have already been spotted in London suggesting that Street View will be extended to Europe. 




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