EU data protection authorities have urged U.S. Internet search giant Google to shorten the period it stores images from its controversial Street View web service because of privacy concerns.
Launched in San Francisco in 2007, Street View allows users to navigate around a 360-degree view of city streets, buildings, traffic and people, using pictures taken by Google's camera vehicles.
Now available in many countries, critics of the service accuse Google of failing to obscure sensitive images and setting its cameras in a way that allows them to peer over fences, hedges and walls into private property.
Google, which now keeps the images for a year should halve this period, privacy authorities wrote in a letter to the company's global counsel, Peter Fleischer.
The Working Party believes that a maximum retention of six months for the unblurred copies of the images would strike the right balance between the protection of privacy and the ability to eliminate false positives, the letter, which has a February 11 dateline, said. The Working Party, which is made up of privacy supervisors from European Union countries, advises the European Commission on data protection rules.
European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said she would monitor data protection issues closely.
In Europe, we have high standards for data protection. I expect that all companies play according to the rules of the game, she said in a statement.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)