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Google embroiled in new privacy row

gadgets Updated: Apr 16, 2012 15:09 IST

Search giant Google has sparked a new privacy row by asking users to read and interpret random private house numbers in order to access their own accounts.

Internet users are being asked to read random pictures of real house numbers taken by Google's Street View cameras, as part of new security checks.

The pictures of house numbers, which are taken from doors and fences on its Street View mapping service, appear on Google's websites when users are asked security questions in order to access their accounts.

In order to gain access to the page, web users are forced to identify a blurry house number by typing it into a box, The Telegraph reports.

The same image is presented to other Google users around the world at the same time. If enough people submit the same number, Google accepts they have accurately read the photo and are therefore not bots.

According to the paper, campaign groups accused the firm of being "underhand and crude".

"There is a serious privacy issue with identifying the individual number of people's homes," Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties at Big Brother Watch said.

Pickles also said that there is no such 'public interest' use in retyping house numbers, rather, Google uses the affirmative identification of a house number to sharpen up the image on its Street View or Google Maps service.

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