(May 15, 2009) Street View, a service offered by Google to its users in the United States and in some countries in the European Union two years ago, was greeted with skepticism in Greece in view of its possible intrusion on the privacy rights of citizens. Based on Street View, users are able to zoom to a certain location on maps and then move the “Pegman” icon to get a picture view of a street.
On May 11, 2009, the Hellenic Authority on Data Protection (the Authority), which was established in 1997 in implementation of European Union legislation pertaining on the right to privacy and the protection of personal data, ordered Google Street View not to begin its service in Greece. The Authority, in response to Google's notification, had requested that Google provide additional information to them to decide on the legality of the service provided. Google informed the Greek Authority that the pictures, which can show faces and vehicle's tag numbers clearly, will be blurred.
The Authority requested the following additional steps from Google:
· Take measures to inform the data subjects regarding the service provided and the rights of those subjects; mere identification of the street mapping cars is not considered sufficient means to inform the public;
· Name a representative of Google in Greece and further clarify the role of the Greek company KAPOU, which provides a similar service in Greece;
· Report on measures to be taken to avoid street views of areas that may hold sensitive data; and
· Provide information as to the duration of the images kept in Google's database prior to being blurred, as well as security measures for such data.
The Greek Authority also requested that KAPOU, which provides this service in three large cities, suspend its operations until it takes measures similar to those requested of Google. (Press Release, Authority on the Protection of Personal Data, Street View Service in Greek Cities (May 11, 2009), available at http://www.dpa.gr/portal/page?_pageid=33,15453&_dad=portal&_sche
The Director of Privacy International, an NGO based in the United Kingdom, welcomed the decision of the Greek Authority and stated that the decision will establish a precedent for other countries. (Greece Puts Brakes on Street View, BBC, May 12, 2009, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8045517.stm.)