We have been following stories of how European courts have been hammering Internet companies in stripping posters of anonymity and limiting speech (here and here). Now, Google has been hit again with a major fine of $1.4 million for failing to have cars that are readily identifiable in its Street View program in Italy. Italians complained that they were not given sufficient notice to get out of the way to avoid being filmed.
Italy’s Data Protection watchdog announced that “[c]ars belonging to the giant of Mountain View roamed Italy’s streets without being entirely recognizable as such, therefore not allowing the people present in those places to decide whether to be photographed or not.”
Google has faced earlier small fines for the unauthorized collection of data and emails in the United States, Switzerland, and Germany. Obviously, with an annual income of a reported $50 billion, this fine will not be significant and Google has already paid it. However, it raises an interesting question of why public images need to be protected in this way. The camera is capturing the same view as a person at the same location. It is not clear how much notice the company must give to such images. The concern is that we recently saw how Hungary has made photographing people in public without consent a crime. This ruling is clearly not saying that Google cannot film street views but the lingering question is whether there will be a growing European claim against being filmed in public. My concern is with the effort of governments to find ways to prevent citizens in this country and Europe from filming police in public and limiting other uses of photography.
What do you think?