Canada to Google Street View: “Car!”

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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is concerned that street level photography, as currently deployed in the United States, may not meet the basic requirements of Canadian privacy laws.

The Privacy Commissioner has written to Google and Immersive Media to seek further information and assurances that Canadians’ privacy rights will be safeguarded if their technology is deployed in Canada.

Privacy Commission, Sept. 11 2007

Although Google Street View hasn’t come to Canada yet, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has written expressing concern to Google and to Immersive Media Corp, a Calgary company whose large database of photos gathered with high resolution cameras affixed to cars, may provide the basis for Street View’s portrayal of Canadian citites. The anxiety, of course, is that in their eagerness for accuracy and detail, Street View’s photographs may also capture images of people who are recognizable, the publication of which might violate Canadian privacy laws.

Stoddart’s letters to Google and Immersive are available online.

It will be interesting to read the responses from Google and Immersive, because although being “captured” in these photographs might make people uncomfortable, it isn’t clear, at least to me, that their use by Street View would be in fact a violation of the various privacy laws in Canada, particularly since the images of any people would be entirely incidental to the commercial nature of the enterprise.

Comments

  1. Check out this list of “alleged” Google Street View privacy invasions:

    http://streetviewgallery.corank.com

  2. I’m not sure what the Commissioner is thinking here — I’d rather she took the time to properly explain to the public the key distinctions between privacy and anonymity. If you want privacy these days, you’d better stay home and unplug your Internet connection.

  3. Dominic this is very cool. I didn’t know about Virtual City at all. I wonder if the Commissioner does. Thanks for the tip.

  4. I’ve seen the car in Bells Corners (Nepean, ON) at 11:55 today!
    -martin

  5. I’ve seen the car twice downtown Toronto. One was 3 days ago. If they were snapping pictures the whole time then I’m in both!

  6. I had a similar report from a friend in Toronto yesterday, and they, too, hope they made the picture.

  7. I see nothing illegal with photographing everything that can be seen in public places. This is not against the law. If the photography is reaching into buildings and taking photos of interiors of spaces not usually visible to the public, then I’m against it. If however it is just taking photos of driving down the street, which includes other vehicles and people driving and walking down the street, I see no reason for so much concern.