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Google Street View Privacy Protest in Japan

The Kanshi Shakai o Kyohisuru Kai (Campaign Against Surveillance Society), a group of Japanese lawyers and professors led by Sophia University constitutional law professor Yasuhiko Tajima, have asked Internet giant Google to shut down Google Street View on the grounds that it violates basic privacy rights. Google Street View provides 360-degree, panoramic views of selected streets and areas from a pedestrian or vehicle’s perspective, enabling users to more accurately orient themselves in unfamiliar areas.

Tajima wants Google Street View shut down and all its images deleted on the basis they violate the privacy of anyone whose photograph appears in the service. Street View has sparked its share of privacy complaints, as some people claim they were photographed by Google and can be identified; well-known cases include sunbathers and an individual seen exiting a strip club in San Francisco. Similar complaints about the service have been made in the United States and Europe.

Google takes some care to anonymize individuals appearing in Street View photos, blurring faces, license plates, and other sensitive information in the photos available to the public. Nonetheless, it would still be possible for a knowledgeable person to recognize vehicles, individuals, and activities shown in many Google Street View images; in some cases it even possible to determine the date and time Google snapped its photos.

Google has not responded publicly to the complaints, but earlier announced it would comply with a U.S. Defense Department required to remove some images from Street View over concerns they may pose a security threat to U.S. military bases or other sensitive locations. Similarly, Google has blurred out material in Google Maps and Google Earth surrounding sensitive locations.

Kanshi Shakai o Kyohisuru Kai has previously protested installation of security camera’s on Japan’s bullet trains.