Google launched Google Street View last week in Denmark. Now it turns out that the service may very well be very illegal. The law they are breaking is §264a that forbids anyone to take pictures of people at private places.
When Google launched Street View in Denmark last week they said (on TV) that the service does not break any laws in Denmark. However, Google did apparently not even ask the data protection agency in Denmark (“datatilsynet”) if Google Street View is in fact legal prior to taking the pictures.
The law (§264a) is very simple – here is a quick translation:
Anyone photographing people who find themselves in a not freely accessible place is punishable by fine or imprisonment up to 6 months. The same applies to the person using binoculars or other device unjustified observes these persons.
It is the act of taking the pictures that is illegal – never mind the way they are published or not. I believe publishing the illegal photos may make it worse.
It is not enough that Google try to disguise faces – its still illegal to photograph people at private places. Likewise the option to ask Google to remove a specific picture is not good enough either. The law is the law – you don’t have to ask Google not to break it in each case they do!
The story is all over the news here in Denmark. So far Google have refused to comment. Funny how Google love to be on TV when they want to promote their stuff – but refuse to talk when they are confronted with serious legal issues!
It’s not just the news that picked up on the legal issue. Many politicians now demand that the case is investigated. I am sure the police will be forced to deal with this case very quickly.
It will be interesting to see how this case plays out over the next days and weeks. Google will not be able to ride this off with their usual arrogant “we don’t comment” attitude. This is too big already!