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Privacy Roundup: Google Street View, French Law, and Congressional Hearings

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Privacy concerns are ever-present, but the past week has generated significant buzz on the matter.

First up, Google has been asked by a the European Article 29 Working Party to keep "unblurred" photos for Street View for as little time as possible. The conundrum is this. Google sends its cars out to photograph countries. They use technology to blur things like license plates. However, sometimes the tech goes awry and blurs things that don't need blurring. When Google finds out about it, they use the original, unblurred photo to correct and then add it back into the system. Clearly, that raises a privacy issue. Google says it's working with the Article 29 Working Party to determine the amount of time they should keep the photos, but no solid timeframe has been given yet.

Speaking of Europe, France is putting the pressure on social networking sites like Facebook when it comes to privacy issues. The matter at hand is the trend towards being "open" so that third-party developers can build applications using APIs. French politicians are concerned about these third parties gaining access to private information. There are two things the politicians should consider. One is that most APIs are restrictive. In other words, you don't get access to all of a social network's functionality just because there's an API. Secondly, most of the networks provide an option for users to opt-out of their information being shared.

Last but not least, the United States Congress is having yet another round of hearings on web advertising and privacy. Yahoo! Vice President of Policy and Head of Privacy Anne Toth today testified at the House Energy & Commerce Committee subcommittee's "Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumer Expectations." Toth explained the benefits of relevant advertising but also touted the Yahoo! Privacy Center.

Google Deputy General Counsel Nicole Wong also appeared at the hearing. Wong spoke about Google's recent launch of interest-based advertising. The benefits of relevancy of the ads was a talking point for Wong, as well.


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