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England village covers Google lens

When a car with a camera on a pole got to work in Broughton to collect imagery for Google Street View, locals put a stop to it. The data-recording program has raised hackles across Europe.

September 13, 2009|Henry Chu

"I'm sure that Google has made every safeguard in the world possible to keep this information relatively secure," the Broughton resident said. "But if information gets in the wrong hands . . . you lose this sense of personal freedom. You lose this sense of liberty that this country is supposed to be built on."

Never mind that Britons are already among the most watched people on the planet, subject to the unblinking gaze of security cameras in all sorts of public spaces. But having one's home photographed and then posted on the Web is a step too far, Butler-Ellis said.

When the Google car trundled down his street in April, he and other residents of the snug village about an hour's drive north of London were already jittery from a rash of burglaries. Who knew what the car with its high-mounted camera was up to? What if it caught images of loose window frames, or expensive belongings in someone's living room?

Burglars "are very organized now. They're not stupid," Butler-Ellis said.

"They do a reconnaissance of the area, and this will help them do that."

The reward for Broughton's vigilance is that the community does not appear on Google Street View in Britain.

But there was an unintended consequence: After residents took their stand, news crews flocked to Broughton -- cameras in hand, snapping photos and recording footage that was broadcast throughout the rest of the country.

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henry.chu@latimes.com

Special correspondent Maria De Cristofaro in Rome contributed to this report.

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