MP says Google Maps reveals location of secret UK domestic violence shelter

Google Maps can come in handy if you need relatively precise directions or information on a business.

But as the service improves with expanded details on businesses globally, a British Member of Parliament raises an interesting point about when information needs to be concealed for possible overriding reasons of privacy or safety. Shelters for abused women traditionally operate in secret, to protect residents from abusers who have been known to stalk or harass them. The security of one such shelter was compromised when the location’s information, including a picture, was posted on Google:

“Only once women have called the emergency number and a pickup point has been agreed do they find out where the hostel is.

“Imagine their great concern when, on entering the name of the organisation on Google, a picture of the building the refugees use and also their address appear on the search engine,’ (MP Mark Lancaster) said.

“I find it staggering that such an invasion of privacy on an organisation whose purpose is to protect others is allowed to occur.”

Google has commented on the concerns raised by Lancaster, saying:

“The company has contacted Mr Lancaster this morning to urgently try to find out the details of the case he raised.

“Anyone can request an image for removal from Street View using our simple ‘report a problem’. When they do we remove the image quickly. We have removed sensitive locations in the past and are happy to do so.”

What do you think? Should the service be “opt in” rather than “opt out?”