Last Wednesday a handful of residents of a small village in England formed a human chain to block the path of one of Google's Street View camera cars and prevent the search giant from photographing their houses.
According to the BBC, the villagers who live in Broughton, just outside the town of Milton Keynes, felt the camera car was invading their privacy and potentially putting their property at risk by showcasing their homes to burglars. This is not the first time Google's Street View mapping project, which creates 360-degree views of roads all over the U.S. and Europe, has been called into question. Indeed, the Federal Privacy Commissioner in Canada recently said that the project may be in breach of Canada's privacy laws.
In the case of Broughton, Google said it was observing U.K. laws and only filming from public areas. The company has also noted that it offers homeowners in the U.K. the opportunity to have their houses removed from the system. There were a few complaints when Google launched its Street View service in the U.S. back in May 2007, but -- as in the U.K. -- it's perfectly legal provided Google shoots only from public places. The company has also employed face-blurring technology to help overcome privacy concerns.
It is somewhat ironic that in trying to maintain their privacy the people of Broughton have brought instant notoriety to their village, their actions making the front page of the Chicago Tribune (4,000-plus miles away) today, and even prompting a potential backlash from some Twittering Street View fans in England who say they plan to go and photograph the village for themselves.