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Franklin Park couple say Google 'Street View' pictures violated privacy

| Friday, April 4, 2008

A Franklin Park couple sued Google Inc., saying pictures of their home that appear on the Web site's "Street View" feature violated their privacy, devalued their property and caused them mental suffering.

Aaron and Christine Boring bought their home in October 2006 for a "considerable sum of money," according to their 10-page lawsuit filed Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

"A major component of their purchase decision was a desire for privacy," the lawsuit said.

The suit targets the Mountain View, Calif., company over images on its Web site, which allows users to find street-level photos by clicking on a map. To gather the photos, Google uses vehicles with mounted digital cameras to take pictures up and down the streets of major metropolitan areas.

The Borings say the images of their home on the Google site had to be taken from their long driveway, labeled "Private Road," and that violated their privacy.

Google spokesman Larry Yu wouldn't comment on the suit because the company was still reviewing it. But, in general, Yu said Google has links on the Web site that let property owners request such images be removed if they cite a good reason and can confirm they own the property depicted.

"We absolutely respect that people may not be comfortable with some of the imagery on the site," Yu said. "We actually make it pretty easy for people to submit a request to us to remove the imagery."

Yu also said if the Borings made such a request to Google, especially claiming that the images show a view from their private driveway, that he's confident the image would be removed.

The couple's attorney, Dennis Moskal, said that's not the point. He said the Borings' privacy was invaded when the Google vehicle allegedly drove onto their property. Removing the image doesn't undo that damage - nor will it deter the company from doing the same thing in the future, he said.

"Isn't litigation the only way to change a big business' conduct with the public?" Moskal said. "What happened to their accountability?"

Google, however, is not the only Web site with a photo of the Borings' property.

The Allegheny County real estate Web site has a photo, plus a detailed description of the home and the couple's name. Similar information, including pictures, of nearly every property in the county is on the Web site.

Moskal said the county's image appeared to be taken from a public street.

"The county's not trespassing," Moskal said.

Moskal said his clients did not wish to speak to the media. The Associated Press could not find a listed phone number for them.

The Borings paid $163,000 for the property, according to the county Web site. The county describes the home as a single-family, four-room bungalow with a full basement. The one-story frame home was built in 1916 and s its on a property that's a little less than 2 acres.

The home is 984 square feet with a fireplace and central heat and county assessors graded it as being in "Fair" condition. The county Web site does not mention the property's two detached garages and swimming pool, which are visible in the Google pictures and are mentioned in the couple's lawsuit.

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