How to carjack a top Google exec, according to Google

US National Legal and Policy Center uses Street View, Google Earth to expose top Google exec’s personal information.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) in the US has turned the tables on Google by using the company's controversial Street View technology along with Google Earth to compile and make public a detailed dossier on a "top Google executive".

The dossier includes a photo of what appears to be the front gate and car park area of the exec's opulent California manor, including the license plates of several luxury cars outside the home, the executive's landscaping company car, and a photo showing the name of the neighbour's home security company.

The NLPC does not state which Google exec the information pertains to, but media outlets around the world are reporting that it is the home of Google co-founder Larry Page.

The photos are followed by Google Earth-enabled information including the distance from the street to the front door, and the optimal driving route the exec would follow to arrive at Google's Mountain View headquarters, complete with photos of every intersection, stop sign and traffic lights en route.

The NLPC describes itself as a not-for-profit organisation focused on ethics and accountability in public life and private business. It said in a statement that it is publicly releasing the dossier to highlight the invasiveness of Google technologies to individual privacy.

"There is no better evidence that individual privacy simply does not exist in Google's world than by the chilling amount of detailed visual information Google now collects on all of us, information that any Internet user can now compile in a dossier in less than 30 minutes," said Ken Boehm, NLPC chairman.

The NLPC criticised Google for issuing contradictory statements on privacy after the search giant said that it takes privacy "very seriously" in response to concerns surrounding the privacy implications of its search-advertising deal with Yahoo. The same day, the NLPC said, court documents from May were released in which Google "evangelist" Vint Cerf told the Washington Technology Alliance that "nothing you do ever goes away, and nothing you do ever escapes notice...There isn't any privacy, get over it".

Google's hypocrisy is breathtaking, said Boehm.

"Perhaps in Google's world privacy does not exist, but in the real world individual privacy is fundamentally important and is being chipped away bit by bit every day by companies like Google," he said.

Google's Street View technology has come under increasing scrutiny regarding privacy issues of the people, cars and places it photographs, with both the European Union and Canadian advocacy groups warning the technology could violate privacy laws.

The search giant has also come under fire for its monitoring of YouTube data, its online privacy policy and the proposed Yahoo/Google search deal.

The Street View tool, launched mid-2007, has since expanded to most major US cities and to Europe, where the UK's consumer watchdog recently approved the technology provided it blurred personal information such as faces and car registration numbers.

Google has stated that Australia's version of Street View, which is now available, will also blur faces and number plates, and will only include photos taken from public property.

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Andrew Hendry

Computerworld

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