A Conservative MP has slammed Britain’s privacy laws as “as waste of public money”, and says search giant Google should hand footage from its Street View cars over to the police without a court order.
The call by Tory MP for Derbyshire South MP, Heather Wheeler, follows the disclosure by police last November of a picture from Google Street View, showing a suspect in the driveway of a constituent’s home shortly before the family’s caravan was stolen in June 2009.
The man was pictured, seemingly readjusting the family jewels, next to a four-wheel-drive vehicle – but in keeping with Google’s standard policies, the vehicle’s number plate had been blurred out.
Police were told by Google that they would need a court order to obtain a copy of the original, unblurred photograph – a refusal that outraged Wheeler.
UK privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office said it could not comment on individual cases, but a spokesperson said that the Data Protection Act did not prevent companies from passing on information that relates to the investigation of a crime.
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Okay, first, Google did the right thing by refusing to turn over the unblurred image without a court order. They would take a huge hit on privacy if they did anything other than insist on adhering to a uniform standard that production requires a warrant or some court authorization.
Second, I don’t think Google should be retaining the unblurred images at all. Once the blurred image is uploaded, destroy the original. Find a problem with the blurring? Go send the damned car back out and take another picture. The risk of retaining unblurred images from a privacy breach perspective far outweighs the cost/inconvenience of sending cars back out to take a new image. In the alternative, simply remove the improperly blurred image and don’t replace it at all.
Third, the MP needs to get a clue on privacy.