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MP slams privacy laws as 'waste of money'

A Conservative MP has slammed Britain's privacy laws as "a waste of public money", and says search giant Google should hand footage from its Street View cars over to the police without a court order.

The call by Tory MP for Derbyshire South MP, Heather Wheeler, follows the disclosure by police last November of a picture from Google Street View (opens in new tab), showing a suspect in the driveway of a constituent's home shortly before the family's caravan was stolen in June 2009.

The man was pictured, seemingly readjusting the family jewels, next to a four-wheel-drive vehicle - but in keeping with Google's standard policies, the vehicle's number plate had been blurred out.

Police were told by Google that they would need a court order to obtain a copy of the original, unblurred photograph - a refusal that outraged Wheeler.

"It would be sensible for them to enter into a protocol with British police forces to receive and acquiesce to police requests," the MP said.

"Of course, the police can get a court order but what a waste of public money in order to do that. I would urge Google to enter into a proper and professional relationship with our police forces to assist in the detection of crime."

Google defended its actions, with a spokesperson stating: "It's very important to Google and our users that we only provide information if valid process is followed, as laid down by governments in law.

"We have a team specifically trained to evaluate and respond to requests when they are received, and we will of course co-operate with police requests as long as they are legally valid and follow the correct processes."

The search giant last year found itself in hot water with data protection regulators in the UK (opens in new tab) and elsewhere over data illegally gathered from unprotected Wi-Fi networks by its Street View cars.

UK privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office said it could not comment on individual cases, but a spokesperson said that the Data Protection Act did not prevent companies from passing on information that relates to the investigation of a crime.

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