Google Street View faces privacy roadblocks in Japan, Greece

Bowing to privacy concerns, Google said Wednesday it will reshoot all Japanese pictures for its online Street View mapping service.

Bowing to privacy concerns, Google said Wednesday it will reshoot all Japanese pictures for its online Street View mapping service.

Google said Wednesday it will lower the cameras on its vehicles by 40 centimetres after complaints in Japan that the cameras were capturing images over fences in private residences.

Street View, which was first launched in the U.S. in May 2007, provides close-up, 360-degree views of city streets as they would be seen by someone driving along them. The images are linked to the company's Google Maps and Google Earth applications.

The application has met with varying degrees of resistance as it expands to countries outside the U.S., as countries and cultures with differing expectations of privacy have fought to keep the company's image-capturing vehicles off their streets.

On Tuesday Greece's Data Protection Authority (DPA) banned Google from gathering any more images until the company provides additional privacy safeguards.

The DPA said it wanted information about how Google will store and process the original images and safeguard them from privacy abuses and also wanted clarification on how it intended to inform the public when its vehicles would be rolling through their neighbourhoods.

'Google takes privacy very seriously'

Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company would provide the DPA with further clarifications.

"Google takes privacy very seriously, and that's why we have put in place a number of features, including the blurring of faces and licence plates, to ensure that Street View will respect local norms when it launches in Greece," Filadelfo said Tuesday. Google also allows people to request to have images removed.

Street View is already available in U.S., the U.K., Spain, Australia and has received tacit approval to begin shooting images on city streets in other countries such as Canada.

Google announced it would begin shooting in 11 Canadian cities in March. Google has collected such images of Canadian cities before, but this time it let residents know about it as part of an effort to address privacy concerns that were brought up by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada after the service first launched in the U.S. in 2007.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner posted a fact sheet on Street View on its website in April, in which it outlined under what circumstances the practice would be acceptable.

"We think companies that engage in this activity have to let citizens know that they are going to be photographing the streets of their city, when this will happen, why, and how they can have their image removed if they don't want it in a database," they wrote.

Street View faced protests in the U.K., but in April Britain's privacy watchdog said Street View carries a small risk to privacy but not enough to warrant removing or shutting down the service.

With files from the Associated Press