Google seems to be having a very tough time in Europe this month. There was the case where their executives were convicted in Italy and their search engine algorithm was called into questioned. Now another trouble seems to be brewing with its Street View feature in Google Maps.
Reuters reported about a letter from EU regulators to Google in which they expressed concern about the company's retention policy for Street View images. Undoubtedly, it is expensive to crawl a city or country and take pictures, which would make it advantageous to retain images for as long as possible. So Google has has a retention time of one year for Street View images.
The EU thinks that a year is way too long. The Data Protection Working Party, a group of EU officials, requested in a letter to Google that the company shorten the retention period from a year to six months. Regarding privacy, The EU also suggested an improved warning system for areas that will be imaged with Google paying for notifications in local newspapers. They have also suggested that Google should react more quickly to requests that images and data be deleted for privacy reasons, as well as "taking positive measures to avoid capturing images of a sensitive nature.” Questions were also raised about Google retaining unblurred images internally.
A Google privacy lawyer said that the company had reason to hang on to its Street View images for a year. “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,” said the lawyer, Peter Fleischer.
Street View is to be launched in Germany later this year and Germany has also raised a number of concerns about the service. Despite the host country's uneasiness about Street View, a member of Google's legal team in Germany was quoted as saying, "It is difficult to forbid a company to do something that is legal."
[via Los Angeles Times]