Google accused of Street View 'smear campaign'

A prominent critic of Google's Street View has accused the company of trying to discredit him.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, a group that has formally complained about Google's service being intrusive, says that the company has been briefing journalists in order to discredit his opinions. Their chosen method: spreading a ‘bizarre conspiracy' theory claiming that Davies is biased towards Google's old enemy Microsoft. Not that he's paranoid.

Google has said it's doing no such thing, claiming they're just ‘asking him to be honest about his other affiliations'. There is, of course, no smoke without fire, and Google has in fact highlighted Davies' links to Microsoft. The company has worked with 80/20 Thinking, Davies' data protection company, in a working group on internet privacy, along with other big net names like Facebook.

Davies denied that there was any conflict of interest, writing an open letter to Google boss Eric Schmidt to that effect, saying that 80/20 Thinking had never received any benefits from Microsoft, and adding that any suggestion to the contrary amounted to a smear campaign of which Google should be 'ashamed'. 'Google is coming across as a desperate company resorting to desperate measures,' said Davies. Ooh, get him.

All eyes have been on Street View since the service launched earlier this month, with a string of controversial incidents leading to calls for it to be shut down: from a woman a woman who had moved house to escape a violent partner but was recognisable outside her new home on Street View, to a bloke who got caught on camera coming out of a sex shop; as well as more general concerns about car number plates.

Even the MT team wasn't spared the odd shock: editor Gwyther looked up his heavily-improved South London mansion on Street View only to find one of his Polish builders lounging about on a fag break on his front step.

In the interest of closing this case once and for all, Google's next move should perhaps be to trail Davies with one of their camera cars to get evidence of him meeting Microsoft execs. Surely there's nothing wrong with doing that?

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