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10/7/2009
02:11 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google Busy Protecting Privacy Of KFC's Colonel Sanders

In Europe, where worries about Google's Street View imagery at one point led villagers in England to set up a roadblock and have generally enraged bureaucrats who believe that only the state should take pictures of people, Google has struggled to present the snapshots it takes on public roadways without being criticized for invading someone's privacy.

In Europe, where worries about Google's Street View imagery at one point led villagers in England to set up a roadblock and have generally enraged bureaucrats who believe that only the state should take pictures of people, Google has struggled to present the snapshots it takes on public roadways without being criticized for invading someone's privacy.So Google has been blurring the faces of people captured in its pictures, much as it does in the U.S.

But sometimes Google's blurring algorithm makes mistakes. For example, it frequently blurs the face of KFC icon Colonel Sanders, who can be seen on signage in various Street View images around the U.K.

Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, says that Colonel Sanders "is probably our most blurred image!"

Google has also been known to blur the faces of horses.

But it's all for a good purpose, right? According to Fleischer, Google has decided to permanently blur the faces it detects in Street View imagery within a year of image publication.

"This means that long term the only copy we keep will be the blurred version," he explains in a blog post. "In countries where Street View is already launched the year long retention period will start today."

"We think one year strikes a reasonable balance between protecting people's privacy and our ability to reduce mistakes in blurring, as well as use the data we have collected to build better maps products," Fleischer's post continues. "It's important to remember that European privacy laws allow for the retention of data, so long as it is for reasonable periods of time and the information itself is actually being used."

So start annotating images of Colonel Sanders now because in a year, you may have no idea whose chicken restaurant you're looking at in Street View.

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