Google is facing a tough time when it comes to privacy. Only 2 days ago Google lost a court case with Viacom (the parent company of MTV and Paramount Pictures) where the judge ruled that they must hand over the log files detailing everyone who has ever accessed a YouTube video. This ruling could set a dangerous precedent. It effectively forces one company to hand over personal user information to another company (Viacom is a company after all, not a federal agency) containing personal information related to millions of users around the world. Google is appealing the decision and requesting that it be allowed to anonymise the data.
We may have the Privacy Act in Australia, and the Data Protection Act in the UK, but that means absolutely nothing when your data is hosted on a server in the US. It's clear to me that there's now a desparate need for international laws governing data privacy.
In another blow to Google, Google's plans to launch Google Street View in the UK is being referred to the Information Commissioner. Google Street View is criticised by privacy advocates because it could potentially show the faces of individuals. Google can remove the image on request, which it has done for many instances in the US, but in the UK there is an argument that this could breach the Data Protection Act because they're not getting the user's consent before using the image.
Google is currently trialling facial recognition software in the hopes of being able to automatically pixalate the face of anyone that might show up in it's images.
By the way, you may not have seen the following picture. Google have taken this down now but the original photo (below) accidentally caught someone pulling a gun out on a kid at the side of the road.
I personally think Google Street Views is amazing and I can't wait for it to come to Australia. If you thing Google Earth is good check out Google Street View!