Victory for Google in battle over web photos

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A COUPLE have failed in their attempt to sue Google for invasion of privacy after their house was photographed for use on an internet tool being created by the company.

Aaron and Christine Boring accused Google of violating their privacy for showing their home on an internet mapping application called Street View.

Cars are equipped with cameras to take 360-degree images, which are used to give online glimpses of locations when users click on a map.

Google is gradually photographing every street in the United States and has started an extension of the project in the UK, including Scotland.

Mr and Mrs Boring accused Google, in a court in Pennsylvania, of privacy violation, negligence, unjust enrichment and trespassing.

They claimed that Google had caused them "mental suffering" and decreased the value of their home.

The photographs at the centre of the lawsuit, which was launched last year, were taken at the foot of the Borings' driveway and showed their house, a pool area and detached garage.

Signs marked the road as private.

The couple were seeking more than 17,000 in compensation and damages.

Judge Amy Hay concluded that the Borings, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, could not prove they had suffered as a result of having their home photographed, particularly as they had not contacted Google to request that the images be removed. The Borings also made public their home address on court documents.

"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," said Judge Hay.

"The plaintiffs' failure to take readily available steps to protect their privacy and mitigate their alleged pain suggests to the court that the intrusion and their suffering were less severe than they contend."

Google said in a statement that it respected individual privacy and offered various protections to people concerned about the Street View tool.

"We are pleased that the judge agreed this suit was without merit," the firm added. "We blur faces in Street View and we offer easy-to-use removal tools so users can decide for themselves whether or not they want a given image to appear in Street View."

David Goodbrand, a partner at Burness LLP in Edinburgh, who has a specialism in privacy law, said he was not surprised the Borings lost the case. I don't think their privacy was breached by Google taking a photo of their house," he said.

He said if the photo had been published alongside other information that made it clear who lived in the house, the claim would have been more likely to be successful.

He said Google was careful to avoid breaching privacy, so similar claims in the future would be unlikely to succeed.

"They make sure everyone's faces are blurred out," Mr Goodbrand said. "If they use that technique to make sure no person is readily identifiable, then I think they are doing as much as they need to make sure they are covered in the future."

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