Search! What You See

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Google reveals location of women's refuge for domestic violence victims on Street View

Google has revealed the name and address of a women’s refuge centre, potentially endangering the lives of domestic violence victims.
Mark Lancaster, the MP for Milton Keynes, attacked the internet giant for publishing the details of a safe house on its Street View website.
Abused women rely on safe houses in discrete locations to keep them away from abusive partners.
But Mr Lancaster said he was contacted by one refuge after their cover was blown by Google. 
It openly published a picture of the outside of the refuge, complete with the top secret address and postcode, on its controversial Street View website. 
Google had not even responded to emails from the refuge, pleading for its privacy to be protected.
He said: ‘Imagine their (the refuge's) great concern when on entering the name of the organisation on Google, a picture of the building the refugees use and also their address appear on the search engine,’ he said.
‘I find it staggering that such an invasion of privacy on an organisation whose purpose is to protect others is allowed to occur.’ 
The MP spoke during a Commons debate on internet privacy and Google’s sweeping powers.
MPs accused Google of deliberately harvesting personal information which it could sell on for commercial gain - a charge that Google has denied.
Robert Halfon, the Tory MP who initiated the debate, attacked Google’s photographing of every house in the country through Street View.
While vans took to the street to record people’s homes and gardens, the firm also gathered the email addresses and passwords of residents.
Mr Halfon said it was ‘hard to believe’ that Google could copy millions of computer passwords and email details and ‘not know what it was doing’, he said.
‘My own view is it was of commercial use for Google and that is why it was done,’ he told MPs.
‘It's not good enough, as Google have suggested, that the whole thing was an innocent mistake.
‘That was their line when Street View uploaded images of naked children without the consent and knowledge of those involved.
‘That was their line when a Google engineer was able illegally to access children's private email accounts and telephone records - and then Google took disciplinary action only after parents complained that the engineer had illegally used Google data to harass their children.
‘I find it hard to believe that a company with the creative genius and originality of Google could map the personal wi-fi details, computer passwords and email addresses of millions of people across the world and not know what it was doing.’
Mr Halfon called on ministers to make Street View an ‘opt in, rather than opt out’ website.
An inquiry by the Information Commissioner had initially cleared Google of any wrong doing, but Mr Halfon said this was because the privacy watchdog felt his powers were limited.
MPs backed his call for tighter regulation of the internet. Three quarters of Germans have opted out of Street View, while Greece and the Czech Republic had totally banned it.
Mr Halfon called for a commission of inquiry made up of internet and privacy experts. It would suggest new laws to  give citizens an ‘affordable and speedy means of redress’.
Ed Vaizey, the Internet Minister, promised to look at setting up a mediation panel with Google and other internet service providers which could resolve disputes with citizens.
Alex Deane, the director of Big Brother Watch, hailed parliament’s first debate on internet privacy.
He said: ‘Google must now sit up and take notice of the concerns of many Members of Parliament who today voiced their concerns at the company’s reckless approach to personal privacy. 
'They will no doubt get a verbal ticking-off from the Internet Minister Ed Vaizey when they next meet – but a simple slap on the wrist doesn’t go far enough.’
Mr Deane called for the Information Commissioner to ‘show some teeth’ and punish Google over its collection of personal data.

No comments:

Post a Comment