Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 says (emphasis mine):

Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Now I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds pretty good in principle – we all have the same right to privacy, just as we all have the same rights under the legal system (cough).

And, considering the multiple revelations from NSA whistleblowing ex-contractor Edward Snowden, its just as well too, given how our privacy is being walked all over every day.

But, just like the legal system (arguably), the right to privacy seems to operate on a tiered system in which the mere act of being human doesn’t seem to equal a level playing field in terms of rights.

As I’m sure most people are already aware, Google recently launched its ‘right to be forgotten’ request form in response to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which affords citizens the ability to attempt to magic away search results they don’t like.

Whilst I can see many good reasons for such a form to exist, and some genuine reasons why someone would wish to remove certain topics from Google’s search results, it seems as though most removal requests surround past indiscretions and unfavourable news, neither of which are wholly what the ECJ was thinking of when it drafted the legislation – in my opinion.

Now we have the news today that the rich and famous have been having their homes blurred out from Google’s Street View. En masse.

The likes of Tony Blair, Sir Paul McCartney and Lily Allen have all had their properties effectively removed from the mapping program, presumably on the grounds that they are somehow special.

Now I know that Google will consider requests from the little man in the street when it comes to Street View – a friend of mine discovered that a car that shouldn’t really be parked on his drive was in fact there for all to see when the service first started and now has an updated view of his property, sans said vehicle – but the web giant isn’t about to remove my house or his entirely are they?

Well, apparently they will. Google says –

“We provide easily accessible tools allowing users to request further blurring of any image that features the user, their family, their car or their home. In addition to the automatic blurring of faces and license plates, we will blur the entire car, house, or person when a user makes this request for additional blurring. Users can also request the removal of images that feature inappropriate content (for example: nudity or violence).”

And, if you’ve found an image that you would like further blurred, or an image that you believe contains objectionable content, just follow these steps

  1. Locate the image in Street View.
  2. Click “Report a problem” in the bottom-right of the image window.
  3. Complete the form and click “Submit”.

That’s it. We’ll review your report promptly.

But good luck with that – there are many reports on the web of people submitting such requests, sometimes multiple times, and getting no joy whatsoever, or seeing the images of their houses return after a while.

I guess they just aren’t rich or famous enough huh? Or is it because the rich and famous can back up requests with letters from lawyers? I don’t know about that but it certainly seems to me that some people are more equal than others in the world of privacy – so take it upon yourselves to do what you can to maintain what little you have left of yours.

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