In the middle of our street

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
November 10, 2010, 10:18 PM GMT+0

Many of our respondents see Google Street View as an extremely useful tool, but some feel uneasy about its alleged breaches of privacy, objecting to the actual photographing of streets as well as to allegations of Google’s collection of other private data, responses to our question on the issue have shown.

  • Many respondents were specific about how they use the interactive map.

However, some respondents were concerned about just how private Google’s data gathering is, amid revelations earlier this year that ‘Google cars’ touring countries for images unintentionally gathered data including passwords, snippets of emails, email addresses, text or even the website page that the WiFi user may have been viewing at that moment, through unsecured WiFi networks.

  • Meanwhile, others excuse such data collection error as ‘a little glitch’ and ‘teething problem’ with the service, while some pointed out that information on ‘unsecured networks is already in the public domain’ and claim that the problem is with ‘the WiFi company not Google’.

Privacy problems

The debate comes within the global context of Google’s reputation as a firm which could do more to protect users’ privacy. Soon after it launched in 2007, it came near the bottom of a Privacy International report on large companies’ records on privacy; earlier this year Australian police launched an investigation following reports of private data gathering and the company has received worldwide criticism, including from governments and residents of Germany, Japan, Canada and the UK.

Google has maintained that any private data were collected in error and have been destroyed, but this month saw the UK’s Information Commissioner ruling that the company was in ‘significant breach’ of the Data Protection Act and will face an audit into its practices.