Village sticks fingers up to Google Streetview

A small village in Buckinghamshire is up in arms and threatening to take on the Google corporation for continuing to show their village on Streetview.

Residents of London Road in Broughton had already physically blocked one of the Google cars from coming into their road to take pictures for the online service, which went live for their area yesterday.

Yesterday morning, anyone looking up the village on street view would have met with “this image is not available”. But eventually Google triumphed and a 360 view of two of the four road village went up in the evening, blaming the earlier lack of images on ‘technical glitch’.

This has angered the villagers who feel that they should have been asked whether they would like their homes to be put online before the pictures were made public.

“It’s all very well going around taking photographs at eye level then it’s not so much of an issue,” Tory councillor for Milton Keynes and resident of the village, Edward Butler-Ellis told TechEye. “But when you’ve got a camera ten feet up in the air peering into everyone’s gardens and so forth, and nobody knows about it until after the event that takes the biscuit really.

“Clearly Google was aware that many villagers had an issue, we though ‘Wow, they’ve actually listened to us.’ But again they’ve taken a decision about a whole community without involving them.

“Most people in the UK will now know that they are on Streetview, but if you don’t have access to the internet [and don’t want to be involved] then what do you do?”

Google has said that if the residents wish to have their houses or the street removed then it will be dealt with “in the normal way”.

This, says Butler-Ellis, is not good enough. “I heard some self-styled, self-titled person from Google saying how easy it is to remove yourself from Streetview , that you can just click. But actually you have to report it, categorise the issue and explain the problem and give your email address, without that you cannot [remove yourself].”

The councillor said that the villagers were concerned that this was also allowing Google to collect even more information about them.

In April 2009, Google Streetview was cleared of breaking the Data Protection Act by the information commissioner. At the time the commissioner said that banning it would be “disproportionate to the relatively small risk of privacy detriment”.

Since Google Streetview arrived 18 or so months ago, Google has claimed to see a 30 percent rise in traffic to the Google Maps website. The feature now covers 96 percent of the UK.

Scores of pictures, including one of a man leaving a Soho sex shop and another of a man throwing up on his stag party, were removed the day after the site’s UK launch.