Google's Czech tentacle has responded to yesterday's move by data protection regulators to stop the company collecting any more images for its Street View service in the country.
The statement does not address data protection president Igor Němec's main complaint: that Google failed to register as a processor of personal information, as is also required in the UK. We've asked Google why it failed to register and will update this story if we get an answer.
The Office for Personal Data Protection also complained that Street View captured images beyond those accessible from the street.
Google sent us the following statement:
We're disappointed with this outcome as we have robust procedures in place to protect privacy, such as face and number plate blurring and a removals tool. We'll continue to engage in constructive dialogue with the DPA to answer any other questions they have. Street View has proved a popular and useful tool for consumers and businesses around the world and we look forward to finding a solution to bring additional imagery to people in Czech Republic.
When we designed the Street View cars we took care to ensure the camera height was designed so it could best take pictures of buildings, street signs and other useful stuff, while not impinging on people's privacy. A lower mast height could mean that the camera is closer to the head-height of pedestrians on the pavement, and that's something we'd rather avoid because SV is about buildings and streets not faces. So we make it just high enough to ensure we avoid obstacles which might make it a less useful tool to users - like being blocked by a van or lorry but not so high that it can see over people's fences.
We're always testing out new camera technology to ensure that we continue to protect privacy whilst ensuring the images we collect are as useful as possible for people using Street View. Of course we also appreciate that some people might not want their house to be on Street View at all, in which case they can simply click report a problem and we'll remove it. Street View is very popular in Czech Republic. We have registered a 35 % increase in Google Maps usage immediately after we have launched Street View. Recent research states that most respondents consider Street View privacy control tools sufficient. (STEM/MARK, September 2010)
Němec also suggested at yesterday's press conference that Street View might be more acceptable in major tourist destinations, where residents are used to being peered at by visitors, but less acceptable in smaller villages which have a higher expectation of privacy. Prague gets four visitors a year for every local resident. We've put this to Google too.
Street View covers only part of the Czech Republic - most of Prague, major roads and parts of other towns including Český Krumlov, Ostrava, Brno. This service is still working, and has been since 2009, but Google will need to find agreement with regulators before extending it.
Data protection regulators in Germany have given Google until 7 December to set acceptable privacy standards for picture collection there. ®