Google bucks Europe on Street View

Mon, Mar 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    European Union officials are asking Google to improve privacy practices with its Street View service, according to eWeek. Not surprisingly, the Internet giant is asserting it knows best.

    As reported by Clint Boulton, the EU officials want Google to give advance notice when its camera-equipped vehicles are roaming the streets snapping pictures.  They also want Google to retain the original photos on its massive server network for only six months.

    Google uses automated software to blur faces and license plate numbers on the images that are actually posted for viewing as part of Google Maps.  It says it needs to keep the original photos for a year for quality control.

    Google Global  Privacy Counselor Peter Fleischer told eWeek that Google is sticking to its guns:

    "The need to retain the unblurred images is legitimate and justified—to ensure the quality and accuracy of our maps, to improve our ability to rectify mistakes in blurring, as well as to use the data we have collected to build better maps products for our users. We have publicly committed to a retention period of 12 months from the date on which images are published on Street View, and this is the period which we will continue to meet globally.”

    So there,  Europe.

    Actually the heart of the disagreement may stem from differing views about privacy in Europe and the United States as explained by Adam Liptak writing in the New York Times:

    "Americans to this day don’t fully appreciate how Europeans regard privacy,” said Jane Kirtley, who teaches media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. “The reality is that they consider privacy a fundamental human right.”

    In the United States privacy is enforced as a matter of consumer protection.

    Increasingly, I predict, Google’s corporate culture is going to clash with others around the world.  The Silicon Valley ethos of "don’t ask permission, you can ask forgiveness if necessary"  doesn’t play well in much of the rest of the world.

    That reality is at odds with growing importance of the international market to Google.  Its most recent 10-K filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, shows, 53 percent of the company’s revenue comes from outside the United States.    And, it shows that he company is primarily in the ad business. That’s were it got 97 percent of its revenue.

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