Villagers send Google snapper packing

But for the villagers of Broughton in southern England, the roving eye of Google was one camera too far.

A gaggle of residents in the affluent hamlet formed a human chain to turn away a car shooting images for Google Street View, the popular service that allows Internet users to see high-quality photos of houses and streets around the world.

Broughton's tiny victory for people power is the latest sign of concern about the U.S. Internet juggernaut's collection of vast amounts of data, from satellite photos on Google Earth to the searches performed by Internet users and the shopping habits of e-mail users.

"I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane," villager Paul Jacobs told The Times of London newspaper. "My immediate reaction was anger: How dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent?"

Jacobs quickly rounded up his neighbors, who blocked the road and forced the car to retreat.

The local police force confirmed it had been called to the village Wednesday by "reports of a dispute between a crowd of people and a Google Street View contractor."

"They felt his presence was an intrusion of their privacy," Thames Valley Police said in a statement sent Friday to The Associated Press. "When police arrived at the scene, the car had moved on."

Street View debuted in the United States in 2007 and has since spread to countries including France, Italy, Spain, Australia and Japan. It launched in Britain last month, sparking a debate about freedom of information and the right to privacy.

Street View has sparked concern elsewhere as well. In the United States, Google removed images of shelters for battered women.

In the Netherlands, concerns have been raised about the safety of anyone trying to photograph Amsterdam's notorious Red Light district. So far, Google's images stop just outside the district.

In Italy, consumer groups have raised a variety of concerns and asked Google to put visual and sound warnings on the cars that take its Street View pictures.

"People feel sensitive about their local area, about their home, and digitization in great detail of those images threatens a great many people," said Simon Davies of London-based watchdog Privacy International.

For months, Google's Street View vehicle — a car with a pole-mounted revolving camera protruding from the top — has been roaming the streets of Britain, capturing 360-degree images of streets, and the people on them.

Since the service launched, millions of Britons have gone online to look at their own houses or landmarks like the Houses of Parliament. But some government buildings and the area around the prime minister's Downing Street home have been removed.

Google says the technology is legal, useful and non-intrusive. To preserve privacy, individuals' faces and car license plates are obscured by pixelation.

"All the information on Street View is the same as you would find on a property Web site or walking down the street yourself," said Google spokesman Anthony House.

But, he added, "it's a new technology and so I think it is understandable that people will be unhappy with it."

House said Google would remove any image on request, which can be done by clicking a link on the Street View Web site.

Google's British communications chief, Peter Barron, told the BBC that the company had received "a few hundred" such requests.

Pictures that have been taken down — after they were widely run in the press — include one of a man walking out of a sex shop and another of a worse-for-wear reveler throwing up on the sidewalk outside a London pub.

Apart from privacy concerns, some worry that Street View helps criminals scope out targets for burglary or car theft.

In Germany, officials in the northern town of Molfsee vowed last year to stop Google from photographing anywhere in town. Conservative council leader Reinhold Harwart was quoted in the local newspaper as saying letting in Street View would be "opening house and home to criminals."

That was also a worry for Broughton's villagers, concerned that burglars would target their large, comfortable houses.

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police said there was "no evidence to suggest Google Street View is causing an increase in burglaries."

"However," she said, "we want to reassure residents we will be keeping a close eye on this."

Just what the villagers asked for: more surveillance.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition