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Village mob thwarts Google Street View car April 2, 2009

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in English, Haber (News).
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Angry villagers formed a human chain to thwart the progress of a Google Street View car that was in the process of taking photographs of their homes.

Police were called to Broughton in Buckinghamshire yesterday, after furious villagers blocked one of the cars, complaining it was an invasion of their privacy and that the photographs would attract burglaries.

Paul Jacobs, a local resident, spotted the car yesterday morning, thanks to the distinctive 360-degree camera attached to its roof. He told the driver not to enter the village, then roused fellow residents by knocking on their doors. The driver eventually did a U-turn and left the scene.

Google Street View, a controversial mapping service that launched in the UK last month, gives 360-degree views of Britain’s biggest cities, allowing people to take virtual tours from their computers or mobile phones.

Google’s camera-equipped cars are now back on the road, aiming to update the service to cover as much of Britain as possible. The cars have been spotted recently in towns such as Winchester, Chelmsford and Ipswich.

In the past six weeks there have been three break-ins in Broughton, near Milton Keynes, and residents fears that the digital photographs of their roads would be used as a tool in further burglaries.

Google says the car was on a public road and therefore not breaking the law. The company said it would remove any images that members of the public object to.

Mr Jacobs said, “I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane.

“My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime This is an affluent area. We’ve already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks. If our houses are plastered all over Google it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike. I was determined to make a stand, so I called the police.”

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police confirmed, “A squad car was sent to Broughton at 10.20am on Wednesday to reports of a dispute between a crowd of people and a Google Street View contractor. A member of the public had called us to report that he, along with a number of others, were standing in the middle of the road preventing the car from moving forwards and taking photographs. They felt his presence was an intrusion of their privacy. When police arrived at the scene, the car had moved on.”

A spokesman for Google said, “Embarking on new projects, we sometimes encounter unexpected challenges, and Street View has been no exception. We know that some people are uncomfortable with images of their houses or cars being included in the product, which is why we provide an easy way to request removal of imagery. Most imagery requests are processed within hours.”

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