Tag: street view

Google has no street view of desire

GoogleThe US Supreme Court has told Google that an appeal to dismiss a patent violation case will have to be heard in a lower court.

A company called Vederi took legal action against Google in 2010 for allegedly infringing four of its patents used in its Street View mapping software.

Google, according to Reuters, wanted the highest court in the land to hear an appeal after the Court of Appeals said that a district judge ruled in Google’s favour.

Now the case will have to return to a regular court where Vederi will pursue its claims that Street View software infringes its patents.

Google will be disappointed by the ruling, no doubt. Reuters said in its report that the Obama administration had suggested the court not take the case, for reasons that remain unclear.

The law will grind slowly to a conclusion as the lawyers continue to pocket their fees.

Google ignores British justice

Search engine Google has suddenly decided that it is immune to British justice and claims it is under the protection of a French-backed terrorist junta which abolished UK laws in 1776.

Google has decided that it is American and therefore, like that nation can do what it likes in other people’s country. If it does evil to British citizens, then Google insists that they go over to one of those US kangaroo courts where you win by paying the most money.

What is amazing about this story is that was the main argument that Google’s lawyers used in a British court this week.

Google appeared in court accused by claimants of secretly monitoring their behaviour by circumventing security settings on the iPhone, iPad and desktop versions of the Safari web browser.

However, Google said that it did not have to recognise a British court because it was American. The search giant told the High Court that it should throw out claims that it secretly tracked the browsing habits of millions of iPhone users. Not because it did not do it, but because it was American and could do what it liked in the UK.

In the first group claim brought against Google in the UK, the internet firm has insisted that the lawsuit must be brought in California, where it is based. The only problem here is that a similar privacy claim was recently struck out in the US so it means that the British case would also be thrown out.

It will be interesting to see if the British judges think they should be outsourcing their work to the US.

Google has been called “arrogant and immoral” for its tactics in the case. Judith Vidal-Hall, one of the claimants suing Google, told the Telegraph  said that Google was very much here in the UK. It has a UK specific site. It has staff in Britain. It sells adverts Britain. It makes money in Britain.

She said that it was ludicrous for it to claim that, despite all of this commercial activity, it won’t answer to our courts, she said. Although to be fair, it does its best not to pay British tax too.

If consumers are based in the UK and English laws are abused, the perpetrator must be held to account here, not in a jurisdiction that might suit them better. Google’s approach that British consumers should travel all the way to California to seek redress for its wrongdoings is arrogant, immoral and a disgrace, Vidal-Hall said.

A Google spinner said that a case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety two months ago in the US. It was just asking the court to re-examine whether this case meets the standards required in the UK for a case like this to go to trial. 

Google censors Android

It appears that the search engine Google is very upset with people talking about sex on its Android operating system.

Wired noticed that in the latest version of Android, the predictive text won’t recognise the words “sex,” “intercourse” or “screwing,” among others.

Looking under the bonnet of the source code, Wired discovered an “obsessive” and “baffling” list of 1,400 words that Google wants to protect its users from seeing.

On the list are the words “coitus” and other medical and anatomical terms and words such as “panty.” All that is missing is a fear of a woman’s ankle.

Wired correctly points out that the list suggests that Google has a surprising discomfort with sexuality, reproductive health and undergarments.

On the list too are “geek” and “Chromebook” we would have thought that Google would have liked the former and would want to promote the later.

You can type any word that the puritans from Google do not like, but you cannot use predictive text and have to write every letter, from start to finish. Google will have a good go at trying to censor “condom,” for “condition” if you let it – a move which would have the backing of the conservative elements of the Roman Catholic church who are against that sort of thing.

It is probably better to go into the app’s settings menu and disable the word-blocking filter. Then you can ask your mates to buy you a pack of condoms in case you get lucky.

It is not clear what Google is up to with this bizarre Victorian censorship. It is not as if they can protect any children from seeing such words, as it would be the kids who would be typing them in the first place.

If Google is trying to censor to make religious wing nuts in the US happy, it will find that it is starting an ever-increasing censorship spiral which will result in it being as oppressive and autocratic as China, or even worse, Apple. 

Google take down notices getting out of hand

Big content is effectively censoring Google in a way that the Chinese goverment can only dream of and no one appears to be stopping them.

Google’s transparency reports show that requests to remove links to copyrighted material rose steadily in 2013. The search giant received 6.5 million requests during the week of November 18, 2013, which is over twice as many as the same week a year ago.

Google is proud of the fact that it complies with 97 percent of requests.

According to TorrentFreak,  “copyright holders have asked Google to remove more than 200,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine this year”.

That means that Google is now removing nine allegedly infringing URLs from its indexes every single second of every single day.

What is probably more alarming is that most of the requests are automatic and most of the Google decisions about taking them down are too. They are a good way for Hollywood to shut down rivals or enforce its own copyright policy largely free from having to go to court.

Google does not release figures of “false positives” these are situations when takedown notices were issued when there were no rights to do so.

Such cases involve people like Microsoft issuing accidental takedown notices against its own pages.  Or cases where copyright was not infringed, or belonged to other people.

Google has to hand over Street View data

The accountants at Google must be sweating in their boots after Brazilian judges ordered them to hand over private data collected through its Street View program.

So that Google gets the message how serious the judges are, it has been told that they will face a daily fine of $50,000, up to a maximum of $500,000 if they do not do what they are told.

Google pays more than $500,000 a day on stocking the vending machines at the Goolgeplex so it is not as if the outfit can’t afford to drag its feet on the order.

According to France 24, it looks like Google has a right to be stroppy about the court order too.

A few years ago, Google got into hot water over software in its Street View cars which were sniffing wi-fi data. That ended up in court and Google ended up paying a lot of money to make various court cases go away. It appeared to learn its lesson and swore never to do that again.

Now there is a complaint from the Brazilian Institute of Computer Policy and Rights (IBDI), Google is using car-borne software to access private wi-fi networks and intercept personal data and electronic communications.

IBDI pointed to similar occurrences in other parts of the world and demanded that Google reveal if it had engaged in such practices. You would think this is old news, and wonder why it took so long for the IBDI to get the case to court.

However, it turns out that this case is based on the recent outrage of NSA spying in Brazil. Targets included President Dilma Rousseff’s communications, those of state-run energy giant Petrobras and emails and telephone calls of millions of Brazilians.

Google has denied any link to the US electronic snooping, mainly conducted by the powerful National Security Agency (NSA) but Snowden revealed that Google’s fibre optic cable was being hacked.

The IBDI seems to think that Google’s street view is part of a plot by the NSA to snoop on Brazilians now.

Google told the court the debate on data collection took place in several countries ages ago and the case was now closed. 

ICO confirms Google must change privacy policy

The Information Commissioner’s Office has today written to Google, confirming that its privacy policy was not specific enough and that the updated policy raises “serious questions about its compliance with the UK Data Protection Act”.

The ICO said the updated policy doesn’t inform users enough about how Google will use their data across their products.

Google now must change its privacy policy to clear it up for individual users, and failure to do so will leave it open to “the possibility of formal enforcement action”.

In June this year, Google was told to bin Street View data it “mistakenly collected” and accidentally held onto by the ICO, but was let off without a fine.  

The ICO promised it would be keeping a close eye on Google’s actions, and the ruling came as Google was placed under scrutiny by other European countries and the European Commission itself. 

Indeed, the ICO was working in tandem with other members of the Article 29 Working Party – 27 other authorities from around Europe – and promises to work towards protecting individual privacy.  

So far, the EC has posed the most serious threat to Google. Failure to comply with EC orders could actually touch Google’s profits in a significant sense, compared to the hundred thousand or tens of millions it gets threatened with elsewhere. 

Google escapes fine in Street View data theft

Google has been ordered to get rid of data the company “mistakenly collected” as its Street View cars mapped the United Kingdom – but the Information Commissioner’s Office has let the company off without a fine.

The ICO has promised that it will be paying close attention to Google’s operations and will “not hesitate to take action” if there are more privacy breaches in the future.

In a statement, the ICO claimed that its decision regarding Google’s 2010 data snooping – which saw Street View cars picking up private information relating to personal wi-fi – was correct. The collection of payload data, the ICO found, was as a result of “procedural failings” and a “serious lack of management oversight including checks on the code”.

However, the ICO said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that, on this occasion, Google intended to collect personal data.

Critics would say data collection is central to the company’s business model.

During initial investigations, further personal information was found – which Google promised to securely destroy. It later emerged that Google had held onto the data.

The ICO’s enforcement notice reads:

(1) Within 35 days of the date of this notice the data controller shall securely destroy any personal data within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998 held on vehicle discs and collected in the UK using Street View vehicles (to the extent that the data controller has no other legal obligations to retain such data) and,

(2) If the data controller subsequently discovers a Street View vehicle disk holding personal data and collected in the UK it shall promptly inform the Information Commissioner.”

“The ICO has concluded that the detriment caused to individuals by this breach fails to meet the level required to issue a monetary penalty,” the statement said.

ICO head of enforcement Stephen Eckersley said: “The early days of Google Street View should be seen as an example of what can go wrong if technology companies fail to understand how their products are using personal information. The punishment for this breach would have been far worse, if this payload data had not been contained”.

At the time, Google pinned the non-consensual gathering of personal data on rogue code and distanced itself from culpability.

Essentially, Google has gotten off lightly. Considering previously imposed financial penalties, if the ICO did issue a fine, it would not have been much more than a slap on the wrist, given Google’s relative size.

But the ICO did acknowledge it is still investigating whether Google’s privacy policy itself complies with the Data Protection Act.

This investigation is running concurrently with others across Europe, and is designed to assess whether Google is clear enough about how it uses personal information.

The Office pledged to approach Google “shortly” to confirm preliminary findings. 

Man claims Google made him look like an idiot

A Frenchman feels his honour is at stake after Google’s Street View snapped him having a Nintendo in his front lawn.

While having a Wii in full view of the street might be OK in France, it is apparently not if you are seen by a Google street car. Christophe Bigot claims that a photo published online by Street View showing him having a number one in his front yard was just taking the pee.

He claims the snap made him the laughing stock of his village in rural northwest France.

Bigot is in his his 50s and lives in a village of some 3,000 people in the Maine-et-Loire region. He is demanding the removal of the photo, in which locals have recognised him despite his face being blurred out. He also wants 10,000 euros in relief.

His lawyer, Jean-Noel Bouillard, told Reuters that everyone has the right to a degree of secrecy.

He thought he was hidden from view by his closed gate as he relieved himself in November 2010. But Google’s lens caught him from above his gate as it passed by. No one but Bigot knows why he was urinating outside. We guess it is a French thing which us roast beef eaters would not understand. 

France slaps Google with record Street View fine

France has stood up, again, to the all encompassing Google. It has fined the company a record $142,000 (100,000) after finding it guilty of collecting private information while compiling its Street View service.

France is one of the few countries to follow through with making a stand, after the UK along with the Information Commissioner’s Office decided to clear the company of wrongdoing.

However, the National Commission for Information Freedom (CNIL) has slapped the company with a fine after it found that it had not kept its pledge to erase all private data.

It instead found that “Google had not refrained from using the data identifying Wi-Fi access points of individuals without their knowledge.”

This, it said, meant Google had to pay up because the methods had constituted “unfair collection” of information under French law. To top it off the CNIL also claimed Google had received economic benefits from the data.

“It is a record fine since we obtained the power in 2004 to impose financial sanctions,” the head of the CNIL regulator, Yann Padova said.

The fine has been welcomed by Big Brother Watch. Daniel Hamilton, Director at the privacy group, told TechEye that he was “delighted” that France had taken “such clear and unequivocal action against Google.”

However, he pointed out that “sadly,” the ICO over here “effectively abdicated responsibility for online privacy.”

This, Hamilton says, has been shown with the ICO “refusing to take what he calls “knee-jerk” action against Google for the illegal harvesting of personal data.”

Although Mr Hamilton said that this showed the ICO could not be taken seriously , it seems the watchdog’s hands could be tied.

Back in December we reported that the coalition was rather cosy with Google. Mr Cameron is being advised directly about the East London Tech city. We reported that Google has many friends here.  Not to mention interesting inter-personal ties.

Mr Hamilton said there was a great deal the central government could learn from “innovative companies like Google, particularly in terms of increasing the general public’s access to information and fostering better communications between the public and private sectors.”

However, he points out that he hoped the Coalition will learn from Google’s best practices and “scrupulously” avoid “any form of engagement with privacy-infringing programmes such as Street View and the monitoring of personal email accounts”

Google launched its Street View service in 2007 and has since been living in a row over spying and privacy concerns. In addition to concerns about photos taken, Google admitted in 2010 that its cars, which were meant to be taking pictures, were also picking up Wi-Fi data and had “inadvertently” captured unencrypted private data including passwords and e-mails. It was blamed on a rogue engineer.

Google wants to send its spy cars into Israel

Google’s Street View service is causing controversy once again.

This time it’s in Israel where a ministerial task force has been set up to evaluate whether Google should be allowed to sent its spy cars to snap streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as part of the service.

According to Israeli paper Haaretz, the panel will begin working next week to work out what security risks Street View might pose. Unlike many other countries, which have in the past blasted the spying service for infringing on privacy, the Israeli bunch are worried that terrorists could use it to help plan attacks on leaders or those in the political spotlight.

If it gets the green light Google however, will have tight restrictions. It may be allowed to spy and pap Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa but it won’t be able to go near embassies or other points in certain areas of these cities.  

Google also won’t be happy if the decision doesn’t fall in its favour as it seems it’s had its all spying eye on Israel for while. Last year it bought local startup Quiksee hoping that the company’s software could be used to look into buildings.

The ministerial task force consists of Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, who has been assigned the leader together with other ministers, with committee deciding on the outcome.