Brits Resist Google Street View Car

Google Street View in LondonThe story of local London residents physically blocking a Google Street View camera vehicle in their neighborhood is fascinating and presents an escalating public relations challenge for Google. First, from the BBC’s report (which also features a video interview of the man who initiated this protest):

Angry residents in Milton Keynes blocked the driver of a Google Street View car when he started taking photographs of their homes.

Police were called to Broughton after residents staged the protest, accusing Google of invading their privacy and “facilitating crime”.

Councillor John Bint told the BBC the camera mounted on a car was intrusive and people should have been consulted.

This sort of anger to a perceived violation of privacy is not new for Street View, but what is new is the active resistance. This story will get lots of play in the UK and perhaps more broadly in Europe and will embolden critics. We may see more such confrontations with Street View cars.

Regardless of whether the law is with Google, which it is, the company must quickly address residents’ privacy concerns beyond what it is already doing. That could include town by town meetings or outreach on television, etc. If Google fails to do some form of preemptive education and outreach it will find there are more such stories in the press that contribute to the “Google as big brother” meme.

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Update: I received an email from someone who told me informally that his perception is that Google is widely disdained by Europeans despite its dominant market share or perhaps because of it. He added that the Street View controversy is merely the latest development in a privacy row (to use the British term) that has been brewing for a long time around the government’s use of surveillance cameras in lots of public places.

4 Responses to “Brits Resist Google Street View Car”

  1. Stever Says:

    as in your update, Brits have been spied upon by the police and government for a long time with security cameras EVERYWHERE. So Google may just end up being the straw that’s breaking the camels back in the UK as the public grows hateful of the privacy intrusions.

  2. Perry Says:

    There’s a big difference between a security camera, which offer a citizen something in return, and Street View. Public cameras have proven instrumental in crime/terrorism/public safety. Street View offers no such benefit.

  3. Emily Says:

    I am from Milton Keynes and I object to the beginning of this blog which says ‘London residents’ as the article is clearly about people from Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes is a couple of hours north of London so this is equivalent of me saying ‘Los Angeles residents’ about an article on Santa Barbara. I’m currently living in California and I still find it shocking how geographically retarded Americans are. There are more cities in England than just London!

    And yes Britain in the most surveyed society on earth and we’re getting pretty sick of being observed by cameras everywhere we go, I think it’s fair enough if these people blocked the google maps camera. I think few people would tolerate anyone else stood outside their house taking pictures and posting it in the internet for everyone to see. Why should google maps be any different?

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Apologize for the lack of specificity. Many of the original reports described it as village near London.

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