PUBLISHED: 23:16 EST, 15 April 2012 | UPDATED: 23:16 EST, 15 April 2012
Google has found itself embroiled in a new privacy row after asking users to decipher blurry images of house numbers to access certain accounts on the search engine.
Certain users trying to access business or personal email accounts are made to read random property numbers from pictures taken by their Street View cars, to certify their credentials.
The idea of the test is to prevent non-human ‘bots’ from accessing Google accounts, but the security measure has been criticised as ‘underhand and crude’.
Google also faces accusations that it exploits the public information for its own commercial gain, by adding the data to its own map system.
Civil liberty campaigners have branded the Google scheme, which replaces more traditional typing of blurred letters, as a ‘serious privacy issue’.
Nick Pickles, from Big Brother Watch, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It is clear that Google sees the people who use its services as a commodity to be used up. To use the public as unwitting data loggers is both underhand and crude.
‘The ‘Don’t be evil’ mantra appears to have been replaced with a thirst for knowledge.
‘There is a serious privacy issue with identifying the individual number of people’s homes.’
When Google users try to access certain accounts, they are presented with photos of blurred door numbers as a security measure, and asked to type in the numbers.
Successfully typing the correct number identifies the user as human, and they are allowed to proceed.
A spokesperson for Google told the Telegraph there were no security risks associated with the photos as they were tightly cropped and taken from public roads.
The new privacy row comes in the wake of Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin, claiming that sites like Facebook and Apple and stifling Internet freedom.
Mr Brin claims that state control on citizens, as well as the popularity of tightly-regulated sites Facebook and Apple, are eroding ‘openness and freedom’ of the Internet.