Home > Computers and Internet > Google ‘Street View’ may not be coming to Canada, Privacy Commissioner says

Google ‘Street View’ may not be coming to Canada, Privacy Commissioner says

12-Sep-07 07:47 am EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Canada might not get Google’s ‘Street View’, thanks to the Privacy Commissioner’s take on the Privacy Act.  According to Jennifer Stoddart, ‘Street View’ "does not appear to meet the basic requirements of knowledge, consent, and limited collection and use as set out in the legislation."

The wonderful thing about the law (and the terrible thing too) is that it’s subjective until rulings are eventually made on case matter which establishes precedent.  At least, so it goes in Canada.  And I don’t think there’s been a case like this ever.  So me, having as much a valid read of the Act as our dear Privacy Commissioner could take "limited collection" to mean "limited collection of the individual" as opposed to indicating quantity of that collection, which appears to be what Stoddart is taking the law to mean.

So what we have here, and right on the heels of Elections Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer being accused of trying to make the law say what he wants, the exact same phenomenon from another senior bureaucrat.  Fundamentally speaking, almost nobody cares whether their picture happens to end up on Google’s service.  And even if they do, Google offers to remove the image anyway.  Stoddart argues that people might not be aware their image is on the service – in which case I’d again suggest, they won’t care – ’cause they don’t know and there’s reason to care, is there?

Furthermore, there is quite a volume of case law regarding the right of journalists to take images of public spaces which could quickly come into play here if Google, goes that extra mile it shouldn’t be asked to, and files a lawsuit against the Privacy Commissioner over any ruling prohibiting such collection and publication of data.  In effect, what Stoddart will be doing is inviting litigation at taxpayer expense over her own personal read of the law, very likely lacking both legal insight and counsel.

What bureaucrats should be doing is their job.  They should not be abusing their authority to do any more than implementing the most reasonable reading of the law as it is today.  Stoddart, by even asking Google to respond to "her concerns" has already corrupted her purpose in the federal service and should resign.  Such actions discourage Google from pursuing its business goals in Canada – and that’s a slight not only on Google, but on every Canadian both because of the service Google could offer Canadians and because the erosion of liberty of one erodes the liberty of all.

Here’s hoping that failing the righteous resignation of this failed civil servant, she gets proper counsel and acts on it so sanity prevails in at least one federal office.

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Terry Glavin

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