Thursday, March 05, 2009

Google “Street View” Did Not Invade Property Owners’ Privacy

This posting was written by Thomas A. Long, Editor of CCH Privacy Law in Marketing.

Pennsylvania residents (Aaron and Christine Boring) could not pursue common-law invasion of privacy or negligence claims against Internet search-engine operator Google for photographing their residence, outbuildings, and swimming pool and including the photographs in Google’s “Street View” display option for its online map service, the federal district court in Pittsburgh has ruled.

The Borings asserted that they lived on a private road that had been clearly marked with “No Trespassing” signs and that Google had physically intruded upon their seclusion and had unlawfully published private facts.

Invasion of Privacy

The couple did not substantiate their claim that Google’s intrusion and display of the photographs was highly offensive. The Borings had failed to take advantage of available procedures to have the images removed from the Google Street View service, the court noted.

The litigation had itself brought attention to them and the online images of their property. They did not bar others’ access to the images by eliminating their address from the pleadings or by filing an action under seal. The Boring’s failure to take steps to protect their own privacy and mitigate their alleged pain suggested that the intrusion and their suffering were less severe than contended, in the court’s view.


The common-law negligence claims failed because Google did not owe a duty of care to the Borings to avoid posting photographs of private property, the court said. Simply stating that there ought to be a duty is not sufficient to support a negligence claims.

The decision is Boring v. Google, Inc., CCH Privacy Law in Marketing ¶60,298.

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