Minnesota Town Tells Google Maps to Stay Out

 

The Minneapolis/St Paul Star Tribune reports that North Oaks, a town of 4,500 in Minnesota, demanded that Google Maps remove images of their homes from the website’s Street View feature. Note, however, that the residents own the roads so ostensibly, the city is concerned about trespassing by Google employees. Although local officials are not targeting satellite and aerial imagery as it is legal, one wonders whether privacy and security aren’t at the core of the issue.

 

May 30, 2008

You can look at almost anything on Google. Just don’t try to sneak a peek of the homes in the private community of North Oaks. The city of 4,500 residents has demanded that Google Maps remove images of North Oaks homes from the website’s Street View feature, where any Internet user can glimpse a home from the nearest road. North Oaks’ unique situation, in which the roads are privately owned by the residents and the city enforces a trespassing ordinance, may have made it the first city in the country to request that the online search engine remove images from Google Maps. “It’s not the hoity-toity folks trying to figure out how to keep the world away,” said Mayor Thomas Watson. “They really didn’t have any authorization to go on private property.”

Since the introduction of Google Maps’ Street View last spring, the feature has caused controversy in several cities and with the federal government. The Pentagon banned Google Maps from taking any images of military facilities, and a Pittsburgh couple sued the company over images of their home taken from the private road in front of their house.

The North Oaks City Council sent a letter to Google in January asking the company to remove the images and destroy the files or possibly be cited for violating the city’s trespassing ordinance. Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said the images of North Oaks were removed shortly afterward. She didn’t know of any other city in the country that has made a similar request. “This is very rare where an entire town would request to be taken off,” Filadelfo said. The company receives a limited number of requests from individuals who don’t want their homes displayed on the website. All of these images are removed from public view and would never be sold, Filadelfo said.

Violation of city law

North Oaks officials stressed that they needed to enforce the city’s law against trespassing, whether it be a motorist who isn’t aware of the rules or the Internet search engine behemoth. “You had a guy with a dashboard camera going around taking pictures,” Watson said. “They wouldn’t be able to film on your property and advertise it.” The Google images are collected by drivers in cars with mounted cameras and marked with the company’s logo, Filadelfo said. She said the driver likely didn’t see North Oaks’ no-trespassing signs. The city took down its gates 24 years ago. “Certainly private roads are something we take seriously,” Filadelfo said. “But it may not be immediately apparent with a whole city.”

Satellite images of North Oaks homes are still available on websites such as Windows Live Search Maps, but Watson said the city wouldn’t be confronting that site about the images because city ordinances weren’t violated to obtain the pictures.

 

This article generated more than 175 comments, so be sure to visit the original editorial for the full text: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/19416279.html?location_refer=Editorials

 

See also Kevin Pomfret’s Spatial Law Blog comments regarding Google’s StreetView: http://spatiallaw.blogspot.com/2008/04/privacy-lawsuit-against-google-earth.html

 

 

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