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Computerworld Australia - The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) has turned the tables on Google Inc. by using the company's controversial Street View technology along with Google Earth to compile and make public a detailed dossier on a "top Google executive."
The dossier (download PDF) includes a photo of what appears to be the front gate and parking lot of the exec's opulent California manor, including the license plates of several luxury cars outside the home, the executive's landscaping company car and a photo showing the name of the neighbor's home-security company.
The NLPC did not state which Google executive the information pertains to, but media outlets around the world are reporting that it is the home of Google co-founder Larry Page.
The photos are followed by information from Google Earth, including the distance from the street to the front door and the optimal driving route the exec would follow to arrive at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., complete with photos of every intersection, stop sign and traffic lights en route.
The NLPC describes itself as a not-for-profit organization focused on ethics and accountability in public life and private business. It said in a statement that it is publicly releasing the dossier to highlight the invasiveness of Google technologies to individual privacy.
"There is no better evidence that individual privacy simply does not exist in Google's world than by the chilling amount of detailed visual information Google now collects on all of us, information that any Internet user can now compile in a dossier in less than 30 minutes," said Ken Boehm, NLPC chairman.
The NLPC criticized Google for issuing contradictory statements on privacy after the search giant said that it takes privacy "very seriously" in response to concerns surrounding the privacy implications of its search-advertising deal with Yahoo. The same day, the NLPC said, court documents from May were released in which Google "evangelist" Vint Cerf told the Washington Technology Alliance that "nothing you do ever goes away, and nothing you do ever escapes notice. ... There isn't any privacy; get over it."
Google's hypocrisy is breathtaking, said Boehm.
"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," he said.
Google's Street View technology has come under increasing scrutiny because of concerns about the privacy of the people, cars and places it photographs, with both the European Union and Canadian advocacy groups warning the technology could violate privacy laws.
The Street View tool, launched in mid-2007, has since expanded to most major U.S. cities and to Europe, where the U.K.'s consumer watchdog recently approved the technology provided it blurred personal information such as faces and car registration numbers.
Google has stated that Australia's version of Street View, expected to launch this year, will also blur faces and number plates and will only include photos taken from public property.
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