U.K. Privacy Watchdog: Google Street View Should Not Be Shut Down

Britain's privacy watchdog said Thursday that Google Street View should not be removed or shut down, dismissing concerns that the service was too invasive.

Google's Street View program, which carries panoramic, high-quality photographers of street scenes across the world, prompted a brief flurry of media attention when it was rolled out across Britain last month.

Some complained that the service was intrusive, and, in one particularly well-publicized incident, a group of villagers formed a human chain to block a car shooting pictures for the service, saying they didn't want their privacy invaded.

Britain's Information Commissioner's Office said it was taking a pragmatic approach.

"In a world where many people Tweet, Facebook and blog, it is important to take a common sense approach towards Street View and the relatively limited privacy intrusion it may cause," the ICO's senior data protection practice manager, David Evans, said in a statement.

Evans said that it would not be in the public interest to remove the service and he was satisfied with Google's safeguards put in place.

Google obscures individuals' faces and car license plates by pixilation and removes images on request, but some images initially slipped through, including one of a man throwing up outside of a London pub, and some faces and license plates.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, the group which referred the case to the commissioner, said Google should have provided notice and secured consent from communities and individuals photographed.

He added that he wanted to see the face-blurring technology tested more thoroughly in advance.