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article imageFinland Eyes Action Against Google Street View

By Martin Laine     Mar 5, 2010 in Internet
It’s only been a month since Google’s Street View went public in Finland, but the complaints are pouring in, leaving officials wondering how to handle them.
The country has extensive laws protecting personal privacy and governing data protection, but Google’s service, which offers ground-level views of people’s homes and backyards, may have fallen into a gap. In response to a government official’s inquiry, Google’s carefully-worded reply would seem to imply that Finnish laws don’t apply to the U.S.-based firm.
The service has also prompted concern in other European Union countries.
In one case, the Street View camera caught a scantily-clad man in his backyard. He complained to police that his privacy was violated, and police are investigating whether or not a crime was committed, but therein lies the problem.
Under Finnish law, it would be a crime for someone to take that photo and post it on the internet without the individual’s permission. But how do you go after Google? The pictures are taken by a camera mounted on a car or bicycle, driven by an employee who has no idea what pictures are being taken or what images are being captured. The pictures are almost immediately uploaded onto the internet, with almost no editing.
While not commenting on specific complaints, a statement from Google noted “taking pictures in public places is a fundamental right, and Street View is legal in Finland.”
Finland’s Data Protection Ombudsman, Reino Aarnio, is still considering how to handle the matter. Earlier this week, he said he may take it before the Data Protection Board, which has the authority to issue orders for the handling of personal data.
When Aarnio asked Google about deleting or blurring certain images, the response said the company has a “low threshold” for such actions.
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