Couple: Google Maps Violates Our Privacy

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A western Pennsylvania couple sued Google Inc., saying pictures of their home that appear on the Web site'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 Mountain View, Calif., company over images on its Web site, 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 Web site that let property owners request that such images be removed if they cite a good reason and can confirm they own the property depicted.

"We absolutely respect that people may not be comfortable with some of the imagery on the site," Yu said. "We actually make it pretty easy for people to submit a request to us to remove the imagery."

Yu also said that if the Borings made such a request to Google, especially arguing that the images show a view from their private driveway, 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, however, is not the only Web site with a photo of the Borings' property.

The Allegheny County real estate Web site 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 be less intrusive than Google's, but said there's no way to take a picture of the home from a public street.

Moskal said his clients did not wish to speak to the media. The Associated Press could not find a listed phone number for them.

The Borings paid $163,000 for the property, according to the county Web site. The county describes the home as a single-family, four-room bungalow with a full basement. The one-story frame home was built in 1916 and sits on a property that's a little less than 2 acres.

The home is 984 square feet with a fireplace and central heat and county assessors graded it as being in "Fair" condition. The county Web site does not mention the property's two detached garages and swimming pool, which are visible in the Google pictures and are mentioned in the couple's lawsuit.

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