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Google sued over Street View

Pa. couple alleges mapping feature invades privacy

A Google Street View screen shot of Cambridge Street in Boston is superimposed over a street grid on Google Maps. Privacy advocates say the 360-degree views zoom in too tightly, showing everything from people's faces to license plate numbers. A Google Street View screen shot of Cambridge Street in Boston is superimposed over a street grid on Google Maps. Privacy advocates say the 360-degree views zoom in too tightly, showing everything from people's faces to license plate numbers. (GOOGLE INC.)
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Associated Press / April 5, 2008

PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania couple sued Google Inc., saying pictures of their home that appear on the website's "Street View" feature violated their privacy, devalued their property, and caused them mental suffering.

Aaron and Christine Boring bought the home in Franklin Park, a Pittsburgh suburb, in October 2006 for a "considerable sum of money," according to their 10-page lawsuit filed Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

"A major component of their purchase decision was a desire for privacy," the lawsuit said.

The suit targets the company over images on its website, which allows users to find street-level photos by clicking on a map. To gather the photos, Google uses vehicles with mounted digital cameras to take pictures up and down the streets of major metropolitan areas.

The Borings say the images of their home on the Google site had to be taken from their long driveway, labeled "Private Road," and that violated their privacy.

"There's no merit to this action," Google spokesman Larry Yu said. "It is unfortunate litigation was chosen to address the concern because we have visible tools, such as a YouTube video, to help people learn about imagery removal and an easy-to-use process to facilitate image removal."

He said Google has links on the website that let property owners request that such images be removed if they cite a good reason and can confirm they own the property depicted.

Yu also said that if the Borings made such a request to Google, he is confident that the image would be removed.

The couple's attorney, Dennis Moskal, said that's not the point. He said the Borings' privacy was invaded when the Google vehicle allegedly drove onto their property. Removing the image doesn't undo that damage - nor will it deter the company from doing the same thing in the future, he said.

"Isn't litigation the only way to change a big business' conduct with the public?" Moskal said. "What happened to their accountability?"

Google is not the only site with a photo of the Borings' property.

The Allegheny County real estate website has a photo, plus a detailed description of the home and the couple's name. The site contains similar information, including pictures, of nearly every property in the county.

Moskal said the county's image appeared to have been taken from a public street.

"The county's not trespassing," Moskal said.

Moskal said his clients did not wish to speak to the media.

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