Google faces official complaint over UK Street View

A privacy watchdog has threatened to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office over the launch of Google's Street View technology in the UK.

Street View allows users to look up addresses and see photographs of locations rather than maps. It uses a fleet of cars fitted with cameras to capture images of cities -- often photographing unwary bystanders at the same time.

It is this element that has raised the heckles of privacy campaigners, because people appearing in the pictures have not usually given their permission for the image to be reproduced.

In the US, where the service is up and running, some people who have appeared in pictures have complained, and the images have been removed.

According to reports, Google is trialling technology that will identify and blur people's faces, but Privacy International, which campaigns for people's right to privacy, has questioned whether this will work.

It has written to Google asking for information on the technical aspects of the service, and that if it does not get a response within seven days, it will lodge a complaint with the ICO.

Founder Simon Davies said that the crux of the issue was trust, citing examples of technology that Google has promised, but that has not eventuated.

Davies told BBC News: "I recall the promise made by Google during the DoubleClick acquisition that 'crumbling cookies' would be developed. We have seen no evidence that this technology has been deployed."

He also accused Google of acting "like an irresponsible adolescent".

In response, a Google spokesperson said: "We will not launch in UK until we are comfortable Street View complies with local law, including law relating to the display of images of individuals.

"We will use technology, like face-blurring, and operational controls, such as image removal tools, so Street View remains useful and in keeping with local norms wherever it is available."

It is a bad week for Google and privacy issues, with the search giant being ordered to hand over records of every single video on YouTube and who it has been watched by, as part of a court case involving MTV.

Google is trying to ensure that any identifying information is removed from the YouTube log before it is handed over.

There have also been reports of teenagers using the Google Earth service to identify houses that have swimming pools and then organise "flash mob" pool parties through various social networking sites, a practice known as "dipping".

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