Google meets the mob

April 3rd, 2009 by Jon Clements

UPDATE #2: This is what Rory Cellan-Jones found in belligerent Buckinghamshire and this is what he says.

UPDATE: Hear what Google has to say about it.

 As I write, BBC technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones is on his way to the Buckinghamshire village of Broughton, where the locals are revolting.

Is this a copy-cat outbreak of #G20 summit protests? Actually, no; it’s all about the Web’s favourite search engine Google.  

According to news sources, local residents have sent the Google Street View vehicle packing by forming a human barricade. Thames Valley Police, in customary non-judgemental police speak, report a “dispute between a crowd of people and a Google Street View contractor”. It’s about privacy, say Broughton’s inhabitants; Google says it’s working within the law and that there’s “an easy way to request removal of imagery”.

What’s got Broughton so hot under the collar? According to UpMyStreet the inhabitants have a bigger predilection for “golf, gardening and visiting National Trust properties” – hardly the stuff of anarchic, direct action.

But while Google sees Street View as a “rich, immersive browsing experience”, some Broughton people see it as a burglars’ charter.

Just this week, while talking with a client about the impact of social media, the question was mooted: “Has Google gone too far with Street View?” But despite the privacy backlash on its launch, there was no suggestion it would result in Home Counties’ insurrection.

Twittering lawyer, John Halton, pictures a baying medieval mob, though is careful to disclaim this view:


Others in the Twitterverse are divided on the topic, but have the “good people of Broughton” touched a nerve within the populace that Google – maybe over-estimating the benign acceptance it enjoys around the world – never anticipated?  

Broughton seems to be saying: “Listen Google, I’m happy for you to track down the cheapest car insurance and my secondary school sweetheart, but keep your 360 degree cyber nose out of my property.” An Englishman’s home remains his castle, it seems. You don’t get much more medieval than that.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

5 Responses to “Google meets the mob”

  1. Rob Permeable Says:

    Middle England revolts! Not sure where I stand on all of this (after all, it isn’t a live feed, but a snapshot of one moment on one day), but slightly amused by the (no doubt Daily Mail-stirred) ‘movement of da people’ in Broughton. Curtain twitcherers – do not fear; the comings and goings, affairs and intrigue of your little village will stay in the village. For no man-made contraption will telly-tape the busyness for the fat controller to sit and observe via that there interweb. Bring up the bridges, flood the moats…(plus more stereotypes ad nauseum).

  2. Jon Clements Says:

    Rob – please put that burning torch down before someone gets hurt.

  3. Rob Permeable Says:

    *steps away from the timbers*

  4. Rekha Says:

    Rob Permeable – I have to agree with you!

    I am 50/50 on this – I loved the fact I could look up the building of where a meeting was happening last week so that when I got to the area, I knew exactly where I needed to be, but I can see why some people may be worried about being targetted by less-than-wholesome characters but really – is there need for such a fuss? Daily Wail indeed….

  5. Google gets the vote in Indian elections » Says:

    […] last week’s stand-off between the residents of leafy Broughton and the Google Street View van made national news, esteemed commentators have weighed in to the debate over Google’s […]

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