US judge sides with Google in Street View privacy case
SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge has ruled against a US couple who accused Google of invading their privacy by publishing a Street View picture of their house in the Internet giant's free online map service.
US magistrate judge Amy Reynolds Hay on Tuesday rejected the couple’s claims that Google owed them cash damages for using a picture of their Pennsylvania property snapped from a private road.
Google uses cars equipped with cameras to drive about taking 360-degree images it weaves into its mapping service in a Street View feature that provides online glimpses of selected locations.
In April 2008, Aaron and Christine Boring of Pennsylvania filed suit charging Google with trespass, negligence, invasion of privacy, and unjustly enriching itself by profiting from the photo of their property.
Hay dismantled each of the accusations in a 12-page ruling in which she concluded the accusations were legally unsustainable and dismissed the case.
"The court is not obligated to accept inferences unsupported by facts set out in the complaint," the judge wrote in her ruling, "and is not required to accept legal conclusions framed as factual allegations."
The judge indicated that aspects of the claim failed to meet a legal standard of "highly offensive to an ordinary reasonable person" and that there was no convincing proof the couple was harmed by the Street View picture.
"While it is easy to imagine that many whose property appears on Google’s virtual maps resent the privacy implications, it is hard to believe that any – other than the most exquisitely sensitive – would suffer shame or humiliation," Hay wrote in the ruling.
Google launched Street View in 2007 with pictures taken in a set of US cities and the service has expanded to include locations in other countries.
Privacy concerns in the wake of the launch prompted Google to begin blurring faces of people caught in Street View photographs and take down images at the requests of property owners.
Google has argued in court that an expectation of privacy concerning pictures of houses or yards is unrealistic in this age of aerial and satellite imagery.
[AFP / Expatica]