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Google to pay fine for showing woman's cleavage on Street View

In Canada, a judge rejects the defense that once you are doing something in public, you have no right to privacy.

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Did Google's Canadian Street View car capture too much? A court says yes. Serkan Darende/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Everything that's in the public eye is not necessarily public.

This seems to be the logic offered by a court in Quebec, Canada, after a woman objected to how she was portrayed on Google Street View.

Google's roving camera caught the woman sitting on the steps of her home in Montreal. She wasn't naked, nor even remotely unclothed. She was, however, wearing a sleeveless top that had suffered a wardrobe malfunction on the right hand side. Part of the woman's right breast was visible.

The photo appeared on Street View in 2009. Five months later, in October of 2009, the woman, Maria Pia Grillo, decided to see how she looked on the site, as she'd noticed the Street View car pass by.

On seeing her picture, she was allegedly shocked. Though her face had been blurred, she believed she was easily recognizable. She also said that the license plate of her car was clearly visible, as was her address. So, according to court documents, she asked Google to remove the image.

In initially writing to Google, Grillo said, according to court documents: "This puts me, my house, my vehicule (sic) and my family members that I live with at the mercy of potential predators. I feel very vulnerable knowing that the information is available to anyone with internet access. The damage has been done."

She said she received no reply to the letter.

She also claimed in court papers that her work colleagues mocked her and made jokes about her chest. She claimed to have experienced distress. So she took Google to court for violating her privacy.

She launched her lawsuit in 2011. The small claims court finally adjudicated earlier this month. The court papers were posted to Scribd by GigaOm's Jeff John Roberts.

It ordered Google to pay 2,250 Canadian dollars (around $2011). She had originally demanded: "Mockeries, derisions, disrespectful ans sexualy related comments in relation with the photographs: 15,000.00$. Dignity, intergrity, image, right to anonymity, right to have a private life: 15,000.00$. Nuisance and inconvenient :15,000.00$. (all misspellings from the court documents)"

She reduced her demand to a mere 7,000 Canadian dollars.

Google insisted to the court that it had blurred all the details Grillo had requested. However, the court said it was in no doubt that the woman had suffered pain and suffering as a result of the image being made public and the mockery at work.

The judge also held that despite the fact that she was seated in public, her privacy had been disrespected by Google and that her "modesty and dignity" had been violated. He also commented that blurring someone's face doesn't make them immediately unrecognizable. He described his approach as "European."

I have contacted Google for the company's reaction to the decision and will update, should I hear. The Toronto Sun posted on Twitter the original Street View image and the current one.

The woman's home is now completely blurred out and, Le Journal de Montreal reports, has been since 2011.

Google Street View Case