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Google Street View cleavage shot gets company into trouble: Canadian court slaps $2,250 fine

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A Canadian judge has ordered Google to pay CA$2,250 in fines after one of its Trekker cameras perched on top of a car took a picture of a woman, whose cleavage was exposed, and posted it to Street View.

Judge Alan Breault of the District of Montreal in Quebec, Canada ruled that Google violated Maria Pia Grillo's privacy after one of Google's Street View cars snapped a picture of Grillo sitting in front of her house wearing a skimpy, sleeveless blouse that showed the top of her breasts.

In his ruling, which he describes as "European," the judge does not agree with Google's argument that simply being in public removes a person of her right to privacy.

Grillo, whose photo was taken in 2009 and who filed the lawsuit in 2011, says she initially wrote a letter to Google asking that the photo of her be removed from Street View and that she be "adequately compensated" by Google for the breach in her privacy. Grillo says she was shocked to have discovered the photo in 2009. Although her face was blurred, she says her car's license plate and her address were still identifiable.

Google never responded to her letter. During the trial, the company said it didn't receive the letter and was unable to locate it during search. The company also agreed to blur out the photo but refused to pay the $45,000 Grillo demanded in damages.

"Under the law my lisence (sic) plate should not appear," she says (pdf) in her letter. "Moreover, from a safety and security standpoint, the information shown constitutes a total violation. This puts me, my house, my vehicule (sic) and my family members that I live with at the mercy of potential predators. I feel very vulnerable knowing that the information is available to anyone with Internet access. The damage has been done."

Grillo also says that the photo caused her emotional damage and she suffered a bout of depression due to the embarrassment caused by the photo after her co-workers found it and mocked her. She eventually decided to resign from her position at a "well-known bank," she says.

The original demand for $45,000 was for the "mockeries, derisions, disrespectful ans (sic) sexually related comments in relation with the photographs" as well as the damage done to her "dignity, intergrity (sic), image, right to anonymity, right to have a private life" and for it being a "nuisance and inconvenient." She later reduced her demand to $7,000.

In awarding part of the damages to Grillo, Breault says Google is not responsible for the humiliation she suffered at the hands of her co-workers but that Grillo deserved some monetary compensation for the "significant loss of personal modesty and dignity, two values that she held and are eminently respectable."

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