The Google service that allows virtual exploration of spectacular places is about to arrive in Italy.
At the request of the Mountain View colossus, the Italian Data Protection Authority has given authorization for partial exemption from the obligation to inform the public, but has set strict rules for photo shoots.
The most beautiful places in Italy including beaches, museums, parks and archaeological sites will soon be visitable at a distance thanks to Google Special Collects, a collection of virtual environments devised to popularize the most magnificent corners of the world.
Images are captured with similar equipment to that used for the Google Street View service, but with one difference, namely the special cameras capable of 360 degree shots are not mounted on cars, but on the backpacks of special “trekkers”, that is operators appointed by Google to “map out” places without the use of vehicles.
In their request to the Authority, Google stated that in museums and other places with limited access, recordings would be made during closing times to the public with the aim of limiting accidental filming of visitors and of protecting their privacy. In outdoor locations times will be chosen when passersby are less likely to be encountered. The American corporation will also take action to black out faces and other identification features such as vehicle license plates which might have been recorded, before making the images available on the Google Maps service.
In granting Google partial exemption from informing the public, the Authority has obliged the corporation to take further precautions to protect the public and to implement simplified measures to inform the public of all ongoing filming activities.
In particular, on the three days before beginning recordings, Google will have to publish information on its website in Italian about shooting locations. A further announcement will also have to be posted on websites and any other communication outlets of the organizations involved seven days before filming. In physical locations Google operators will have to see to informing the public of the upcoming recording of images by means of special notices or signs posted at the entrances to sites, in order to allow visitors to exercise their right not to be photographed.
In addition, the “trekkers” who carry photographic equipment will need to be recognized by stickers or other clearly marked distinguishing features to be attached to clothing and equipment, so as to clearly indicate that they are collecting images to be published online on Google Maps through the Google Special Collects service in Street View.
Google will also have to ensure the training of their personnel involved in these operations concerning compliance with the legislation on the protection of personal data.
The Annual Report of the Italian Authority for the Protection of Personal Data, presented recently to the Italian Parliament, has been enhanced by two booklets of documentation on cloud computing and smartphones and tablets that provide directions for greater awareness in the use of these new tools.
The Authority’s attention focuses on the world of so-called apps (applications) with regard to tablets and smartphones.
The methods for acquiring and distributing these particular types of software are centralized and usually controlled by a number of parties such as the producer of the device, the producer of the operating system, the telephone operator and the operator of the application market, for example the Apple store.
The increasingly widespread appearance of smartphones has triggered such major growth that the most important application markets now have a portfolio that may well exceed tens of thousands of applications and which appears able to offer services to satisfy the user’s everyday needs ranging from work to socializing, health and entertainment.
The use of apps of course implies the elaboration and processing of user data, which may be personal, confidential and even sensitive. In many cases data is archived and stored on the device, but more and more often use is made of mobile applications the use of which implies that personal information is moved or copied to the cloud of the service provider.
The analysis of such services brings to light a number of critical aspects of the use of this new generation of devices: they are pervasive, and their default settings encourage the outsourcing and exchanging of data belonging to distinctly separate parts of the user’s life.
According to the Authority, the main threat to the security of user data derives from the lack of transparency in the operating procedures of the applications and is seen in the impossibility for users to keep control of the disclosure of their details to third parties and in certain technical elements concerning software security.
How can better guarantees be provided for users? The Authority suggests that a combination of technical solutions and contractual norms be included in the application’s chain of procedures, which starts from the developer and after passing through various intermediaries, finally arrives at the end user.
It is vital, however, that users are put in the position of being able to take responsible decisions on the best use of their personal data.
In this regard, the Authority’s intention is to strive to increase user awareness of the specific uses of applications that collect private data (ranging from contacts to geographical location, consumer habits and behavioural patterns, to health-related data and social activities) and the eventuality that such data might be made “public”, namely communicated to others, whether for commercial or other purposes, even for unlimited periods of time and even after the user has stopped using the application.
Therefore, to use the metaphor expressed by the Authority’s President Francesco Pizzetti during the presentation of the report, it is necessary for users to be aware of the risk of being ““Electronic Hop-o’-My-Thumbs”, who are often unaware that they leave digital traces of their actions.
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