Privacy Commissioner Expresses Concern Over Google Street View

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has released a public letter she recently sent to Google expressing misgivings about the privacy implications of Google Street View. The Commissioner is of the view that the service, which has not yet been introduced in Canada, may not comply with Canadian privacy law.


  1. Donald Jessop says:

    Unfortunately, I disagree with the Privacy Commissioners belief that \”… images of individuals that are sufficiently clear to allow an individual to be identified to be personal information within the meaning of PIPEDA\”. (Does this mean that if I dress up like somebody so that I \”appear\” to be someone else in a photograph than I have stolen their identity?)

    My belief is that the commissioner has neglected to take into account the fact that Google is limiting its \”…collection, use and disclosure of personal information to purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances\”. If people or businesses, cannot take a picture of a street without the fear that they have violated Privacy Laws then we are coming to a sad state in our society. If Google were following the individual then I would have a concern, but the mere fact that they are in a picture, pretty much at random, should not violate anyones privacy.

    Then again, maybe I\’m just getting old.

  2. Just photoshop it.
    Finally the privacy commisioner is starting to understand. The surveilance of the public is not acceptable.

    The RCMP, however, engages in substantially similar collection of personal information about innocent people with their automatic license plate scanning program. However, they only store that data for 3 months.

    The question is not one of being seen in public, but of having that information archived, and broadcast for all to see. It would be trivial [though labourous] for google to screen each image for personally identifiable information (faces, license plates, etc) and photoshop it out.

  3. Blaise Alleyne says:

    I Don’t See the Concern
    I don’t understand the concern here. There are no names on the pictures (obviously), the pictures are static (no one is being followed), and they’re taken in public (so.. whatever a photographed person was doing at the time was visible to everyone on the street anyways).

    These are just pictures in public places. Doesn’t “public” kind of imply “not private”? The pictures are taken at random in public.

    Take it easy…

  4. The concern is
    That it drastically expands the number of eyeballs lending scruitany to those photographed. The pictures could be highly embarassing to people, and have been, as with people being photographed in bathing suits, through bedroom windows or entering/exiting confidential venues like a doctors office / counsellors or even a x-rated video store.

    [ link ]

    Makes a hobby out of finding interesting info in the street view data. Do you want the world to watch you [ link ]/2007/06/san-francisco-nose-picker-2.html picking your nose? Or [ link ]/2007/06/san-francisco-nice-undies.html of your underwear.

    [ link ]

    Wonder who the guy leaving the strip club is?

    The issue with public surveilance is that while you might be comfortable with the 15 other people on the street seeing you, are you comfortable with the entire nation seeing you. There is a world of difference between the two.

  5. I think the Privacy Commissioner has too much time on her hands.

    I’ll concede that being in public view is not the same as having an image of oneself in public accessible on the internet for a time. Even so, if such objections are endorsed as valid and enforceable, in effect as law – i.e., you can’t display on the internet images of theoretically identifiable faces of people in public places, because it violates privacy – then to be consistent, it should be unlawful for anyone to post openly on the internet, ANY image of anyone in public who has not expressly consented. Perhaps my ISP or Flickr should be obliged to take down every image that happens to show a face, unless all persons have provided consents.


  6. BTM
    I also agree that the PC has too little else to do. In my opinion the law is pretty much settled on the proposition that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. See for example R. v. Tessling, 2004 SCC 67 (CanLII) and in Aubry v. Éditions Vice-Versa inc., 1998 CanLII 817 (S.C.C.) where the court stated:

    “Another situation where the public interest prevails is one where a person appears in an incidental manner in a photograph of a public place. An image taken in a public place can then be regarded as an anonymous element of the scenery, even if it is technically possible to identify individuals in the photograph. In such a case, since the unforeseen observer’s attention will normally be directed elsewhere, the person “snapped without warning” cannot complain. The same is true of a person in a group photographed in a public place. Such a person cannot object to the publication of the photograph if he or she is not its principal subject. On the other hand, the public nature of the place where a photograph was taken is irrelevant if the place was simply used as background for one or more persons who constitute the true subject of the photograph.\”

    Whether this is a personality rights issue is another matter and is clearly beyond the mandate of the PC.

  7. Google invades government’s domain
    It’s interesting the Canadian government is so concerned with this. Your on camera at major Canadian airports from the time your car enters the property until you board the plane. At one airport they have no concerns as to who has access to the camera feeds. If only Big Brother watches it can control information, if anyone can watch then there’s no control!