Google: No such thing as complete privacy

The company takes issue with a Pittsburgh couple's lawsuit that alleges Google's Street View service invaded their privacy.

Google's Street View service didn't invade a Pittsburgh couple's privacy, the search giant said in a response to the couple's April lawsuit over the matter.

"Plaintiffs' privacy claims fail, among other reasons, because the view of a home from the driveway that can be seen by any visitor, delivery person, or telephone repairman is not private," the company said in response to the suit, according to a copy posted at The Smoking Gun. Google seeks to dismiss the claim in its filing.

"Today's satellite-image technology means that...complete privacy does not exist," Google said in its response to the complaint. "Plaintiffs live in the 21st century United States, where every step upon private property is not deemed by law to be an actionable trespass...Unless there is a clear expression such as a gate, fence, or 'keep out' sign indicating that the public is not permitted to enter, anyone may approach a home by a walkway, driveway, or any other route commonly used by visitors, without liability for trespass."

Aaron and Christine Boring sued Google April 2 in Allegheny County, arguing Google's "reckless conduct" in driving down a private road and publishing the resulting photos caused "mental suffering" and hurt the value of their home. The two are seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

Google also takes issue with the Borings' approach to the matter, though stopping short of accusing them of opportunistically trying to extract some money from a wealthy company.

"When plaintiffs discovered these images, rather than using the simple removal option Google affords, they sued Google for invasion of privacy, trespass, negligence, and conversion. Plaintiffs seek damages form 'mental suffering' and diminished property value supposedly caused by the public accessibility of the photos. They claim these injuries even though similar photos of their home were already publicly available on the Internet, and even though they drew exponentially greater attention to the images in question by filing and publicizing the lawsuit while choosing not to remove the images of their property from the Street View service," Google said in the response.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Google didn't roll over with a quick settlement but instead sought to dismiss the suit. Doubtless the company isn't eager for any sort of precedent that could hinder Street View.

Legalities aside, Google Maps' satellite and street-level views have raised some privacy concerns. In response to one type of concern, Google now blurs faces visible in Street View .

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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