Letter to the President, CEO and Director, Immersive Media Corp

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Letter to Mr. Myles M. McGovern, President, CEO and Director, Immersive Media Corp., regarding 3D online mapping technology

August 9, 2007

Myles M. McGovern
President, CEO and Director
Immersive Media Corp.
224 - 15th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2R 0P7

Dear Mr. McGovern,

Re: 3D online mapping technology

I am writing to express concerns regarding developments in 3D online mapping technology, and in particular, photographic images that your company has collected and is selling commercially.

Your website indicates that your company’s GeoImmersive Database consists of more than 40,000 miles of imagery in North America and that your company is expanding its collection of GeoImmersive imagery to include additional North American cities as well as major European locations.  I understand that the images contained in the database were collected using high-resolution video cameras affixed to vehicles as they proceeded along city streets. Your website specifically refers to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City having been imaged. 

I understand that your company is making the images contained in the database commercially available, and that images from the United States are available on the worldwide web through the Google Street View application.  As you are likely aware, Street View was launched in the United States in May 2007, and allows viewers to navigate within street-level imagery which was captured at an earlier date.  The imagery includes major arteries of urban centers, downtown cores, tourist attractions, business or commercial centers, airports, high growth and developing neighborhoods, sports facilities and arenas.  Significantly, there are also numerous images of individuals contained in the Street View application. Many of the images are of sufficient resolution and close enough to allow individuals to be identified, to discern what activities they are engaged in and to situate their geographic whereabouts.

The mandate of my Office is to oversee compliance with Canada’s privacy legislation.  The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents (PIPEDA) Act is Canada's private sector privacy law, which came fully into effect on January 1, 2004. Pursuant to PIPEDA, businesses that wish to collect, use or disclose personal information about people generally require individuals’ consent, and they may only use or disclose that information for the purpose for which individuals gave consent.  Even with consent, businesses are required to limit the collection, use and disclosure of personal information to purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances.  Finally, individuals have a right to see the personal information that businesses hold about them, and to correct any inaccuracies.

The provinces of British ColumbiaFootnote 1, AlbertaFootnote 2 and QuebecFootnote 3 have laws that are recognized as substantially similar to PIPEDA. These laws regulate the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by businesses and other organizations and provide individuals with a general right of access to, and correction of, their personal information. As well, the provinces of Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have legislation that deals with the protection of personal information in the health sector.

Our Office considers images of individuals that are sufficiently clear to allow an individual to be identified to be personal information within the meaning of PIPEDA. The images contained in your GeoImmersive Database appear to have been captured largely without the consent and knowledge of the individuals who appear in the images.  Your company is now making the images commercially available, presumably to anyone who wishes to enter into a licensing agreement. This would appear to run counter to the basic requirements of knowledge, consent, and limited collection, use and disclosure as set out in PIPEDA.

I would appreciate your response to the concerns that I have raised as soon as possible, given the importance of protecting Canadians’ privacy rights.  Please contact me if you have any questions.


Original signed by

Jennifer Stoddart

c.c. David C. Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, Google
  David Loukidelis, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia
  Frank Work, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta
  Jacques Saint-Laurent, Président, Commission d'accès à l'information du Québec
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