Google Street View Brings Up Take-Down Issue

Google has been assailed in the U.K. for its Street View service because some people have complained that their privacy has been violated. As a result:

"Scores of pictures, including one of a man exiting a Soho sex shop and another of a man being sick on the pavement outside a pub, were removed from Street View yesterday a day after it was launched in the U.K."

The issue has been pretty much resolved in the United States after the Borings lost their violation-of-privacy court case against Google, but the outcry in Britain probably has a lot of Americans wondering if their Transatlantic cousins aren't onto something.

For my part, I only wish Google would get a shot of me vomiting outside a pub. It would be proof that I get out of the house once in a while.

But this kerfuffle does bring up an important point, which is the issue of who needs to be responsible for taking stuff down when it's posted to a Web site.

Google has essentially told copyright holders that if any of their videos show up on YouTube, they should point them out and Google will take them down.

This puts the onus on the copyright holders, and that's fair as far as I'm concerned; after all, those copyright holders are generally multinational conglomerates in their own right, and protecting their IP is part of the cost of doing business. And Google can't really control what content users contribute to the site.

Street View, however, is a different matter altogether. For starters, Google is adding the content itself, and therefore can be expected to police itself. And frankly, I don't have the time to hunt around Google Street View to see if I've been caught in any compromising positions.

Google's response to this has been pretty lame: if you find something you don't like, use our tools and we'll take it down. A Google spokesperson was quoted as saying:

""We take privacy very seriously which is why when we announced Street View for the UK we explained our easy-to-use removals process for images people found inappropriate - simply click 'report a concern' and report the image."

In this case, though, I think Google has a moral obligation to police itself.