Couple Sues Google for Violating Privacy With 'Street View' Pictures

A western Pennsylvania couple has sued Google Inc., saying pictures of their home on its Web site violate their privacy and devalued their property.

Images of the home Aaron and Christine Boring bought in the Pittsburgh suburb of Franklin Park in October 2006 appeared on Google's "Street View" feature, which allows users to find street-level photos by clicking on a map.

"A major component of their purchase decision was a desire for privacy," according to their complaint, filed Wednesday in state court, which also says the couple suffered mental distress.

The images must have been taken from the couple's long driveway, which is labeled "Private Road," and that violated their privacy, according to the complaint.

To gather photos for Street View, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google sends vehicles with mounted digital cameras up and down the streets of major metropolitan areas taking pictures. Many other companies take real estate photos the same way.

Google spokesman Larry Yu said the site indicates that property owners can get the company to removed images if they cite a good reason and can prove they own the property depicted.

"We absolutely respect that people may not be comfortable with some of the imagery on the site," Yu said. "We actually make it pretty easy for people to submit a request to us to remove the imagery."

If the Borings made such a request — especially if they told Google its photos must have been shot from their driveway — Yu said he is confident the image would be removed.

The couple's attorney, Dennis Moskal, said the point is that the Borings' privacy was invaded when the Google vehicle allegedly drove onto their property.

Removing the image won't undo that damage, nor will it deter the company from doing the same thing in the future, Moskal said.

"Isn't litigation the only way to change a big business' conduct with the public?" Moskal said. "What happened to their accountability?"

Yu declined comment on the suit itself because the company was still reviewing it.

Google is not the only Web site with a photo of the Borings' property.

The Allegheny County real estate Web site has a photo, plus a detailed description of the home and the couple's names. Similar information, including pictures, of nearly every property in the county is on the Web site.

Moskal said the county's image appeared to be taken from a public street.

"The county's not trespassing," Moskal said.

Moskal said his clients did not wish to speak to the media. The Associated Press could not find a listed phone number for them.

The Borings paid $163,000 for the property, according to the county Web site. The county describes the home as a single-family, four-room bungalow with a full basement. The one-story frame home was built in 1916 and sits on a property that's a little less than 2 acres.

The home is 984 square feet with a fireplace and central heat and county assessors graded it as being in "Fair" condition. The county Web site does not mention the property's two detached garages and swimming pool, which are visible in the Google pictures and are mentioned in the couple's lawsuit.