#GoogleforNigeria and the Problems with Google Street View in Nigeria- Part 1

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#GoogleforNigeria and the Problems with Google Street View in Nigeria- 1
By Enyioma Madubuike

As part of Google’s move to further penetrate the Nigerian market through its ever innovative products, it held the Google for Nigeria event where it announced among other things the launch of the Lagos on Street View. And so finally, Nigeria joins the long line of countries entering the debate on the privacy and data protection issues that have plagued this otherwise useful tool.

Google reports that it intends to extend the Street View to other Nigerian states immediately it has permission from the states to do so which implies that Lagos state has given permission for the roll out of Google Street View in Lagos. This alone raises fundamental issues about the process for adopting the technology in Nigeria but first what exactly is Google Street View.

What is Street View?

Google Street View is a web based application which augments Google Maps by providing panoramic street level images of various cities around the world. It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide. Anyone from anywhere in the world can zoom in and see what the street actually looks like to passersby.

Google uses roving vehicles that drive down the street taking millions of digital photographs to collect the necessary data. The Street View application pieces these photographs together along with controls that allow users to step down the street, or turn their View to different angles.

#GoogleforNigeria and the Problems with Google Street View in Nigeria- Part 1
Google’s Street-View Image capturing vehicle

Google uses roving vehicles that drive down the street taking millions of digital photographs to collect the necessary data. The Street View application pieces these photographs together along with controls that allow users to step down the street, or turn their View to different angles.

What are the issues debated worldwide on Google Street View?

Google Street View is usually sold for its usefulness in exploring public spaces, parks, museums, hotels and places of historical, cultural, and religious interest. However, questions about security and privacy have hampered the adoption of this technology in many cities around the world.

Privacy Issues

Arguments are ongoing in the international community as to whether the capture of people in a public place by a photograph without their permission constitutes an invasion of their right to privacy. Google’s position, however, has been that in a public place, an individual cannot reasonably expect a right to privacy. For example, if a person is accidentally captured in a photograph of a public place, say a historical monument, taken on a smartphone, he cannot claim that it violates his privacy.

Street View pictures only show what is visible to anyone walking down a street. Private areas such as university campuses or amusement parks are added by agreement with the property owner. However, Street View represents a unique situation where a photograph is taken without either a warning to the individual or the individual’s

However, Street View represents a unique situation where a photograph is taken without either a warning to the individual or the individual’s consent and can be accessed by anybody, anytime, anywhere, forever. Further, although Street View images are captured in public areas, there have been instances of Google Street View cars driving on private roadways and complaints about images captured through windows raising security and exposure concerns.

Complaints like this led to Google accepting to automatically blur people’s faces and car license plates to protect their privacy. Further, blurring can be requested by private individuals for faces, an entire house or car, and removal of images can be requested according to Google Street View’s privacy policies.

Street View
Source: @google on Instagram

Complaints like this led to Google accepting to automatically blur people’s faces and car license plates to protect their privacy. Further, blurring can be requested by private individuals for faces, an entire house or car, and removal of images can be requested according to Google Street View’s privacy policies.

Although its policies prohibit adding panoramic photos that are an invasion of privacy to Street view, there is no definition of what constitutes an invasion of privacy. Google passes the initiative to find and report privacy violations. Oftentimes, the harm has been done before the affected person finds out and reports it. It is impossible for a person to constantly check Google Street View to ensure that no compromising images of them have been caught. Images on Google Street View may be from a few weeks to a few years old. It is hardly possible for people to go back that far in time and ensure that their privacy is not infringed.

Indiscriminate Wi-fi Data capturing

While capturing Street View Images, it has been shown that Google vehicles also monitor and collect information from Wi-Fi networks. In several cases, Google has captured detailed personal information while monitoring unsecured networks. Many countries, including the United States and Canada, have expressed concerns to Google about the capture of Wi-Fi data during Street View mapping.

#GoogleforNigeria and the Problems with Google Street View in Nigeria- Part 1
Credit: Streetviewfun

In agreeing to settle a case brought by 38 states involving the Street View project in the United States, Google has admitted violating people’s privacy during its Street View mapping project when it casually scooped up passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users. It did this by secretly collecting personal information — e-mail, medical and financial records, passwords — as it cruised by.

It was data-scooping from millions of unencrypted wireless networks within the area. That settlement led to Google accepting to tighten its privacy monitoring policy in the United States and should serve as a point for discussion for other countries seeking to adopt the Google Street View technology.

 

To be concluded…


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