ICO clears Google Street View

Google Street View in London

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has formally cleared Google's Street View, the data watchdog said today, confirming reports from earlier this week.

Responding to a complaint from lobby group Privacy International, the ICO said that common sense must prevail with such online privacy issues.

After its launch last month, Street View drew the ire of some, including Privacy International and the village of Broughton over privacy complaints.

The ICO confirmed that just 74 inquires and complaints had been filed over Street View, out of 100,000 calls and 25,000 complaints the watchdog receives annually.

David Evans, senior data protection practice manager, said in a statement: "As a regulator we take a pragmatic and common sense approach."

As previously noted, the ICO has said that images of faces or number plates should be blurred. "However, it is important to highlight that putting images of people on Google Street View is very unlikely to formally breach the Data Protection Act," Evans added.

"Watch the TV news any day this week and you will see people walking past reporters in the street. Some football fans' faces will be captured on Match of the Day and local news programmes this weekend without their consent, but perfectly legally," he explained.

He added: "[In] any case, it is not in the public interest to turn the digital clock back. In a world where many people tweet, Facebook and blog it is important to take a common sense approach towards Street View and the relatively limited privacy intrusion it may cause."

That said, Evans stressed that Google must quickly delete any requested images and respond to complaints, warning that the ICO would be "watching closely".

Privacy International could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing, but Google was unsurprisingly happy with the verdict.

A spokesperson said: "We are pleased with the ICO's statement. We took care to build privacy considerations into Street View from the outset and have engaged with the ICO throughout the development process."

Click here to read one man's privacy concerns about Street View, and here to read on about the other privacy and copyright challenges facing Google.