Street View and Privacy

Monday, September 24, 2007 at 7:01 AM



Street View is a service that lets people view and navigate within 360 degree street level imagery of various cities in the US. It provides users with a rich, immersive browsing experience directly in Google Maps, enabling greater understanding of a specific location or area. Since we launched Street View in May, we have released imagery for seven US cities. We thought hard about how to design Street View so that the service would respect the privacy of people who happen to be walking down a public street at the random moment when we capture an image. That's why we designed a simple process for anyone to contact us and have their image removed. In the US, there's a long and noble tradition of "public spaces," where people don't have the same expectations of privacy as they do in their homes. This tradition helps protect journalists, for example. So we have been careful to only collect images that anyone could see walking down a public street. However we've always said that Street View will respect local laws wherever it is available and we recognize that other countries strike a different balance between the concept of "public spaces" and individuals' right to privacy in those public spaces. In other parts of the world local laws and customs are more protective of individuals' right to privacy in public spaces, and therefore they have a more limited concept of the right to take and publish photographs of people in public places. Street View isn't available outside of the US yet, but when it is, we'll be sure to respect local laws. We understand that means that we'll have to ensure that there aren't identifiable faces and license plates in some countries. There's an important public policy debate in every country around what privacy means in public spaces. That balance will vary from country to country, and Street View will respect it.