What is Google’s stance on privacy? That’s the question being asked, at least by Ken Boehm of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) after The Smoking Gun website reveal court papers filed by the search giant in a privacy suit over its Street Views mapping tool. In its filing Google asserts that “complete privacy doesn’t exist.”
But, says NLPC’s Boehm, Google had responded to a politician by saying it “takes privacy very seriously,” according to the BBC. He continued:
"Perhaps in Google’s world privacy does not exist, but in the real world individual privacy is fundamentally important and is being chipped away bit by bit every day by companies like Google."
The Street View suit has been filed by a Pennsylvania couple, Aaron and Christine Boring, who claim that “reckless conduct” by Google driving down a private road and publishing photos of their home not only caused “mental suffering” but also harmed the value of their home. They’re claiming more than $25,000 in damages.
In response, according to the leaked documents, Google said:
"Today’s satellite-image technology means that even in today’s desert, complete privacy does not exist. In any event, Plaintiffs live far from the desert and are far from hermits."
"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."
In a statement, Google tried to explain its seemingly disparate views on privacy.
"The response quotes and expands upon an existing legal opinion to help frame the response. It should not be interpreted as a blanket statement on our views towards privacy. Google respects an individual’s right to privacy. We have privacy protections built into all of our products.”
However, to highlight just how little privacy we have, the NLPC assembled a frightening amount of information on a Google executive in just 30 minutes, using only Google Earth and Google Street View. They were able to discover the numbers of license plates parked outside his house, the name of his landscapers and which security company his neighbor used. According to Boehm, those facts "highlight the invasiveness of these technologies to individual privacy."