Jussi Pullinen reports on the controversy in Finland over Google Street View, which in recent weeks has been accused of posting personally identifiable pictures — including one of a man sitting on his porch with his pants down around his ankles.
Pullinen consulted with several legal experts in the area and reports:
The settings on the vehicle that Google uses for taking its pictures are such that the street scenes fall deep into a legal vacuum.
To qualify as an illegal violation of privacy, taking photographs would have to be deliberate, and an individual person would have to be found who would qualify as the perpetrator.
The cameras mounted on Google’s vehicles take pictures automatically, notes Ari-Matti Nuutila a Doctor of Law at the University of Copenhagen. It would be hard to find the driver of the vehicle responsible for any revealing pictures, because he or she does not necessarily notice what the camera is recording.
Communications law expert Päivi Tiilikka says that the company itself cannot be held criminally responsible for publishing the pictures. It might be possible to charge an individual employee, but to do that, the person directly responsible for making the decision to publish the pictures should be found. After that, a prosecutor would have to establish that the act was deliberate.
As the pictures go almost automatically straight from the vehicles onto the Internet, it could be difficult to identify anybody as the person who made the decision to publish. Google does not even have an editor-in-chief who would be responsible for the content of the website.
Tiilikka says that in theory, it could be possible to sue the company for damages, but Finnish courts do not grant such awards very easily.
Read more on Helsingin Sanomat.