Sunday, March 22, 2009 | 7:51 PM
Since we launched Street View last week in the UK, giving users 360 degree street level views of 25 British cities, we've been overwhelmed by the generally positive feedback and seen record-breaking numbers of users visiting the site.
Then we woke up this morning to an accusation concerning the safety of children. The Independent on Sunday published an article about our Street View cameras picking up a picture of toddlers playing in a small local park in London, one of whom appeared to be naked.
Since publication, the Independent on Sunday has agreed to correct the original story, which painted a highly misleading picture, but the article did raise serious issues about the inadvertent publication of photographs which may be inappropriate on a public platform.
The photographs in this case were not revealing. They showed a typical family picnic in a public park on a summer's day, with children playing. It's important to note that none of the images in Street View are live, they were taken last year. The child in question was some distance from the camera and could only be made out properly at the highest zoom level, meaning that the image already appeared blurred due to the low resolution. He or she was not facing the camera, so could not be identified. And where other people's faces appeared in the image our automatic blurring tool had worked well, to make sure that none of the faces could be identified.
Nevertheless, we take issues around inappropriate content in our products very seriously, and we removed the images within an hour of being notified. For us, privacy and user choice remain paramount. This is why we have put in place tools so that if people see what they believe to be inappropriate images, or simply don't want themselves, their family, their house or car to appear, they can report them to us using the simple tools and the images will be quickly removed.
At Google we are committed to protecting child safety. We support parents' efforts to educate and protect their children when they go online through policies like YouTube's Community Guidelines and easy-to-use technologies like SafeSearch. It's important for us all to be vigilant in the area of child safety, but also to keep things in perspective.
Posted by D-J Collins, Director, Communication and Public Affairs, Europe, Middle East and Africa