TAIPEI, TAIWAN - Anyone who felt that Google Maps' street-level photos of Taiwan infringe on their privacy could file a complaint with the company and request the removal or adjustment of problematic images, the company said in a statement yesterday.
The Google statement came after the Consumers' Foundation said at a press conference earlier in the day that although the Street View photo-imaging service of Google Maps is a useful tool, the public should not be passive about the site's personal data collection and privacy protection.
The foundation urged Google, which has come under fire for not blurring all individuals and license plates pictured in the service, to correct the situation and safeguard people's privacy.
Google Taiwan said that it respects users who may think there are improper images posted in its Street View service and that it had established a mechanism for handling identifiable individuals and license plates that may have been missed in its initial editing process.
Caroline Hsu, head of communications at Google Taiwan and Hong Kong, said in the press release that users can report any issues to Google Taiwan and that the company will review them and correct any controversial images as quickly as possible.
Hsu said the company would continue to focus on improving the efficiency of its system software to protect people's privacy.
Foundation Deputy Chairman Su Chin-hsia urged the National Communications Commission to draft regulations to safeguard the privacy of local residents.
"Google Maps has encountered limitations in many other countries in the world, but not in Taiwan," Su said.
Su said that during a review of the site's content conducted between Aug 17 and Sept 6, the foundation had little trouble spotting clear images of license plates and people in various counties and cities in Taiwan.
"Google should fix this hole as soon as possible," Su said.
The foundation also asked Google maps to provide street views without cars or individuals.
"Even if images of individuals are blurred, they may still be recognized by their outfits, and that could still infringe on their privacy," Su said.
Google said in August that its website traffic in Taiwan had doubled since it launched the Street View service here in August 2009.
It promised at the time to use advanced technologies to blur all images of faces and license plates collected by Street View cars and bicycles, which were introduced that same month.
Though it has yet to receive any complaints about the website for invasion of privacy, the foundation still urged people to be aware of the issue and file legal complaints against Google if necessary.