Frequently Asked Questions - Google Street View

Google Street View is a so-called “mobile mapping" application, technology that enables a camera- and/or scanner-equipped vehicle to digitally store all data of a specific itinerary by taking 360° photos. Specifically, this application makes it possible for everyone to view any part of a public road on the internet. 

The 360° photos often show personal data, like people walking in a shopping street, number plates, houses etc. This is the reason why the application is subject to the Privacy Act.

 

Prior to the launch of this application, Google gave an undertaking to the Privacy Commission to take several measures in order to safeguard the rights of individuals whose data is visible on the images.

The images of the application are fairly dated: this varies from several months to several years. They do not give a current  view of public roads, let alone a real-time view.

A blurring effect is applied to all faces and number plates by definition, in order for those to be unrecognizable. This is automatically done by Google before the images are published online.

Google has also made it possible for Street View users to request additional blurring of faces or vehicles, or to request that a house or property are made unrecognizable.

An overview of the aboves measures is available on the Google privacy policy page for Street View.

If you are of the opinion that despite automatic blurring your face is still recognizable, you can ask Google to increase the blurring using the link ‘report a problem’.  You can find this link at the bottom of the image. You can use the same link if you want to make a house, property, vehicle etc. unrecognizable. To submit such a question you do not need to have a Google Account or Gmail address.

The Privacy Act gives you the possibility to obtain this blurring by using your “right to object”.

To exercise this right, however, you must respect a few formal requirements of the Belgian Privacy Act: you need to send a dated and signed request to Google (Google Belgium, Chaussée d'Etterbeek 176-180, 1040 Brussels) - which you can submit in person or send by regular mail - including proof of your identity (photocopy of your identity card). This request must clearly state which image is involved and which part of it has to be made unrecognizable.

Google must make the images unrecognizable within one month after submission of your request, and must inform you about this.

In case Google does not meet its obligations regarding your right to object, you can contact the Privacy Commission with the necessary proof (correspondence between you and Google, so that it can mediate.

The "report a problem" feature opens the blurring request form in another window ("pop-up"). Most internet browsers automatically block pop-ups. You need to disable the pop-up blocker at least temporarily to use the report link.

If Google does not comply with your request withinh 15 days, you have to send them a letter reporting the problem. You can contact Google at the following address: Google Belgium, Chaussée d'Etterbeek 176-180, 1040 Brussels. Please make sure to indicate the e-mail address you used to request blurring, and the exact address of what you want Google to blur.

If Google does not comply with this request within one month after you submitted it, you can contact the Privacy Commission which can in turn contact Google in order to find out why they have responded to your requests. Please do not forget to include a copy of your correspondence with Google.

Google has committed to blurring the images within 15 days after you submitted your request to do so.