Google faces Greek Street View ban

Greek authorities have barred Google from taking photographs of its streets over fears about the privacy implications of the search giant's Street View service. The Greek Data Protection Authority (DPA) has requested more information from Google.

Google told OUT-LAW.COM that it had discussed the matter with the Greek data protection regulator, but had not seen the letter requesting it to stop activity. "That dialogue is ongoing," the company said.

The DPA said that it had not yet decided whether the service is lawful and has asked Google not to collect images before it has made a decision. It said it had asked Google to address its main concerns.

The DPA is worried about the collection of images from potentially sensitive sites; about the length of retention of original images before faces and car number plates are automatically blurred; and about the status of Google in Greece.

The regulator also said that it was concerned about whether or not Greek citizens had been adequately notified about the collection of potentially personal data, as is required by law. "The mere marking of vehicles used by the mobile camera crew does not seem sufficient information," said its statement, via an automated translation from Greek.

Google said that it had not yet received the regulator's letter but had requested a copy. "Google takes privacy very seriously, and that's why we have put in place a number of features, including the blurring of faces and license plates, to ensure that Street View will respect local norms when it launches in Greece," said a statement.

"We have already spoken with the DPA to ensure that they understand the importance we place on protecting user privacy," the statement said. "Although that dialogue is ongoing, we believe that launching in Greece will offer enormous benefits to both Greek users and the people elsewhere who are interested in taking a virtual tour of some of its many tourist attractions."

Street View was launched in the UK earlier this year, prompting concerns from privacy campaigners who claimed that it may break the law. Google said that its blurring of faces and number plates meant that it was not routinely publishing personal data.

The UK's privacy regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), said that it was happy that the precautions taken by Google kept it on the right side of the law. Google has removed images on request from people pictured in them.