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Google Street View Raises Privacy Concerns 520

Posted by Zonk
from the we-see-everybody-now dept.
Pcol writes "The New York Times is running a story about a woman who says her cat is clearly visible through the living room window of her second-floor apartment using Street View and that she has contacted Google asking that the photo be removed. 'The issue that I have ultimately is about where you draw the line between taking public photos and zooming in on people's lives,' Ms. Kalin-Casey said in an interview. 'The next step might be seeing books on my shelf. If the government was doing this, people would be outraged.' Wired has started a contest on the most interesting photos found using the new Google Tool that now includes sunbathing coeds, alleged drug deals, and the google van itself. 'I think that this product illustrates a tension between our First Amendment right to document public spaces around us, and the privacy interests people have as they go about their day,' says Kevin Bankston, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation."
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Google Street View Raises Privacy Concerns

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  • not just her cat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by miowpurr (1004277) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:46AM (#19350239) Homepage
    By protesting that much about a photo, she now has her name and address (not just her cat) blasted all over the web. If she had said nothing, possibly it would have all blown over.
  • by BlackCobra43 (596714) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:49AM (#19350263)
    fte all, she`s not objecting to people taking her picture, she'`s objecting to people taking her picture inside her house, without her consent, which is the definition of an invasion of privacy.
  • Overreaction? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Karganeth (1017580) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:50AM (#19350273)
    Who cares if I can see your cat or not? If it doesn't matter if I'm walking past your house and see it then why on Earth does it matter if I can see it using my PC? I think the reaction is OTT and irrational. And in regards to the "books on shelves" part - I wouldn't care if they knew what books I was reading. If I did have a book I shouldn't have (whatever that book might be) I would take teh effort to prevent the Government from finding out.
  • by HawkinsD (267367) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:51AM (#19350287)
    I am wrestling with this. If you can see me, from the street, from a car, for God's sake, then how much expectation of privacy do I really have?

    I'm not sure I understand the objections. If I go to a strip club, and I am seen leaving it, well, then, I was a douchebag for not being sneakier about it, if I don't want anybody to know.

    Is the problem that the photos are being published on a widely-used web page?

  • No it isn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sglider (648795) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:52AM (#19350297) Homepage Journal
    It were perfectly reasonable if Google were on her property when the photos were taken (they weren't).

    It'd be perfectly reasonable if her blinds were closed (which would lend credence to them 'invading' her privacy)

    But it isn't even remotely reasonable because she keeps her blinds open! If you don't want someone to take pictures of you, or see you doing the nasty, or anything else inside your house, close your blinds, otherwise you have no expectation of privacy, either from the government, or from your fellow citizens.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:52AM (#19350299)
    the pictures show what anyone driving down the street would see. there aren't any privacy concerns because the pictures don't contain anything private- i know this may come as a shock to the mental midget in TFA, but glass is transparent.

    this is only news-worthy because it has a couple buzzwords like "google" and "privacy concerns". meanwhile, the people who are actually tapping your phone/internet traffic/watching you continue to perpetrate *horrendous* privacy violations, and nobody cares because of watered-down crap like this. if we're going to be morally outraged by something, let's pick something actually scandalous, m'kay?
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:52AM (#19350319)
    If it's visible from the street, it's public domain. If she has a problem with this, she can invest in some curtains.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:55AM (#19350335)
    In the '80s, Microsoft was the geek hero, fighting against the big bad IBM. Today, Google takes Microsoft's place, and it's hero in the minds of the current generation of geek.

    The main difference is that Microsoft always spoke of itself as a profit-making business. Google pretends to be something "better".

    Yes, give it a decade, and of course people will hate Google as much as they hated Microsoft, and it will behave as abusively as Microsoft did during its heyday 5-10 years ago. But I don't want to enjoy the monopolisation of various Internet features, and the other fallout, that comes of its steamrolling in the meanwhile.

    What happened to the entrepreneurs like Hewlett, Packard and Olsen, who actually built amazing new stuff to become world leaders? Google haven't done nothing, but the evolutionary step they made to put them where they are even pales in comparison to what Microsoft did for the PC.
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:57AM (#19350355)
    no expectation of privacy

    Those words do not mean what you think they mean, and hundreds of years of peeping-tom and stalking laws back me up on this.
  • by qazsedcft (911254) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:59AM (#19350387)
    It's not about the picture, or the cat. It's about the f***ing principle. You shouldn't have to close your blinds and turn down the lights anytime you're home just to expect a little privacy. This kind of trend is troubling and insane, and it has to stop. I remember the first time I saw Big Brother on TV and my first impression was "OMG! This is going to catch on. There goes ALL our privacy". Others thought I was freaking out. Well, a few years later and what do you know? You can't even expect to leave your blinds open and not be seen by anyone anywhere in the world.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:01AM (#19350403)

    Yep. As has been noted before, there is a big difference between a one-off observation of something anyone can see in a public place, and the systematic collection and reuse of data. There is also a big difference between what you can see in a public place, and what you can see from a public place using invasive surveillance technology to observe something that would normally be regarded as private. Similar issues arise with everything from store loyalty cards to CCTV to the UK government's proposed ID cards and National Identity Register database.

    The bottom line is that privacy isn't dead, but it's in a coma. If the people value privacy — as IME almost everyone does when you ask non-loaded questions — then governments should wake it up, by enacting laws strongly restricting the collection of personal data and the invasion of people's privacy, which must apply to every person, business, government body or other organisation.

    Of course, this doesn't go down with businesses who are making a lot more money by being able to track and analyse consumers. "Privacy is dead," they tell us. "It's not your data, it's data about you," they protest.

    So the question is, are we going to be a world of free citizens with private lives, or are we going to be a world of consumers who are worth only as much as the latest statistical analysis predicted we would spend this week?

  • The Battery Tunnel in NYC is clearly seen throughout in street view. Its been illegal since 9/11 to take any photos in or on any of the bridges and tunnels of NYC.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:04AM (#19350431)
    I'm fine with it...assuming that everyone enjoys equal access to the stored images.
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigmouth_strikes (224629) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:09AM (#19350467) Journal
    > But it isn't even remotely reasonable because she keeps her blinds open!

    No, no, no. You can't be expected to be living out of a dungeon (or in your parents' basement if that sounds more familiar for /.ers) in order to not have people documenting your personal life. People outside may and should also be expected to see some of what goes on inside your house if you have an easily accessible window, but documenting what goes on in there and furthermore making it available to others, is not OK.

    Interestingly enough, this sort of thing makes "regular" people the victim of what celebrities have had to endure increasingly for a long time. I'm sure there are many readers of tabloids enjoying the latest mega-zoom-lens pictures of Jennifer Aniston eating her bagel in bed, whilst complaining that the Google-van is invading the oh-so sacred privacy when taking pics from the streets.
  • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spyrochaete (707033) <spyrochaete@@@hyppy...zapto...org> on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:11AM (#19350509) Homepage Journal
    If you have nothing to hide, who cares?

    That's almost precisely the same line the Bush administration used to justify residential wiretapping. You're playing with fire there. People should have the right to privacy in their own homes. I say it's okay for Google to photograph a house's exterior, but not the interior.
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:13AM (#19350525)

    If you don't want someone to take pictures of you, or see you doing the nasty, or anything else inside your house, close your blinds, otherwise you have no expectation of privacy, either from the government, or from your fellow citizens.

    Did you know that police in the UK have recently taken to asking people to spy on their neighbours? One of the main warning signs of someone growing drugs illegally is apparently that they always keep their curtains drawn/blinds closed. So sorry, but if you do that, you're obviously a drug dealer and will be reported accordingly. Then the police will come and arrest you on suspicion, take you down to the police station, hold you without charge for a while, and forcibly collect a sample of your DNA to be added to the largest DNA database in the world (and to be left there even after your release, since the current administration removed the legal requirement to destroy such samples if nothing came of the arrest).

    See, the thing is, I have different expectations. I expect a little common courtesy from my fellow citizens, to be considered innocent until proven guilty by my government, and to be left alone by businesses I don't wish to deal with. I don't go around looking through all my neighbours' windows and recording what I see. I don't go around arresting policemen in the street because I suspect that they're going to abuse the increasing range of summary powers they are being given. I don't have time to spy on all the executives and shareholders of my local supermarket looking for those extra gifts for ladies they buy when I know their wife just bought one last week anyway. What happened to doing unto others as you would have done unto you, representative government, respect for the privacy of others, and a general sense of common decency? Is expecting these things really so unreasonable or unusual, or is your comment just a sign of how low our standards have dropped?

  • Duh, +1 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:14AM (#19350537) Journal
    Lady, if you have privacy concerns, close your drapes.

    I don't know, but it was pretty clear to me (no pun intended) from an early age that windows are generally see-through BOTH WAYS. Glass is a fairly egalitarian thing. Don't want to be seen? Pull the shades. And before the privacy wanks all chime in about how unfair this is that one must isolate oneself for privacy - at a certain point, you can't deny the reality of your existence in a physical world, where, barring pricey tech, if you can see out others can see in.

    Next thing you know, someone might be LOOKING AT YOU without your permission! Oh noes!
  • by Flying pig (925874) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:15AM (#19350541)
    Remember when _we_ were the home of freedom and democracy and _they_ were the evil empire who banned photos of anything that could be a military target?

    The UK is just as bad. We refuse to extradite a Russian oligarch to Russia to stand trial on numerous serious charges ranging from fraud to terrorism, then complain when the Russians won't extradite a Russian to us to stand trial for murder. But of course we are the good guys.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:17AM (#19350565)
    That "battle" has only begun, and this is but the first incident.

    What's wrong about seeing that old woman's pussy (juvenile crowd, silence please)? You could stand in the street, look up and behold, you would've seen the same. That cute fuzzy thing.

    The difference is that you would have to have been THERE, exactly THEN, to behold it. This moment is now frozen forever, for everyone to see.

    Now imagine a FF to the not-so-far future, when it becomes technically possible to do such things not only as snapshots, but continuous. Perfect live streams from everywhere to everywhere. Yes, the technology is already here, but I'm talking absolutely ubitiquous. "Google street view" gives you the current live pictures from whatever corner of the world you want to be on.

    Kinda scary if you ask me. Stalking's never been easier. It would be trivial to follow a person throughout his or her life.

    "Close the blinds" kinda doesn't cut it. Every halfway remotely free country on this planet defines your home as some kind of sanctuary, where even the state can't simply waltz in and do what they please. Here, it's illegal to explicitly spy into the windows of houses you can look into. When you take a picture of a house, you have to get the (written) OK from every single owner of an apartment in the house whose window you might be showing in that picture, if you want to publish the picture.

    I'm kinda surprised that no law like this exists in the US.
  • but google has a darling reputation with the slashdot crowd, derived from circa 2002 when it was a darling upstart challenge to the dominant players

    however, the slashdot crowd, enamored as it with privacy, is beginning to learn that "do no evil" is just a marketing slogan, and that, in fact, in cases like this, as with doubleclick, as with cooperation with authoritarian china, as with data retention of searches [myway.com], that google isn't really such a darling company any more

    it is my prediction that within 5 years, due to google's massive ability to read and retain so much data about our lives that would otherwise be anonymous and private, that you will see google become something hated on slashdot far more than something like microsoft, and approaching the hatred the usual slashdot crowd reserves for the likes of ashcroft or the current neocons in the white house. in 2 years time, this crop of neocons will be long gone. google won't. google will still be growing, feeding on all of our data

    mark my words folks, from the left, from the right, you will all come to loathe google, for a myriad of privacy intruding reasons, that are only thickening day by day

    google's CEO on record saying google will eventually know more about you than you will know about yourself [ft.com]:

    Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said gathering more personal data was a key way for Google to expand and the company believes that is the logical extension of its stated mission to organise the world's information.

    Asked how Google might look in five years' time, Mr Schmidt said: "We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation.

    "The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'"

    The race to accumulate the most comprehensive database of individual information has become the new battleground for search engines as it will allow the industry to offer far more personalised advertisements. These are the holy grail for the search industry, as such advertising would command higher rates.

    Mr Schmidt told journalists in London: "We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don't know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google's expansion."


    if some of you are still worried about microsoft, and haven't redirected your focus on google as basically the most evil thing happening on the Internet/ in the realm of privacy today, you are behind the times, your stereotypes are outdated
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:22AM (#19350621)

    What happened to "Just because you can do something, that doesn't mean you should"?

    By the kind of argument you (and, to be fair, many others in this discussion) make, we should just ignore all laws and societal conventions, and be mercenary about doing anything that advances our personal interests. If you are disadvantaged when someone else does this, well, you should have defended yourself better, taken out more insurance, hidden away more, not gone out, paid in cash, not walked past the front of the adult movie store and coincidentally looked over your shoulder just when the photo was taken, not bought three items on the same day which in combination coincidentally trigger a terrorist threat warning...

    So, where do we draw the line?

    Exactly two things have changed today, in the context of privacy, from a few years ago: technology has improved to make it much easier to spy on people and data mine info about them; and people (actually, mainly businesses and governments) have become almost militant in their desire to capture as much information as possible about everyone, all the time. This is a very dangerous combination, which if left unchecked will inevitably lead to the erosion and ultimately the destruction of our basic quality of life. Just because we can do something, that really doesn't mean we should.

  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Politburo (640618) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:23AM (#19350629)
    This isn't "documenting your personal life". It's one snapshot.
  • by AutopsyReport (856852) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:26AM (#19350661)
    Great advice: let's just shield our lives so that pictures cannot be taken and distributed to millions on the Internet. I'm certain that, to all those defending Google and the idea of "public domain", if those pictures were of their living space they would be up-in-arms the same way this woman is.

    By living on that street she has consented (implicitly) to giving up privacy for the sake of location and convenience. She has consented (implicitly) to privacy loss by keeping the windows open. She has also consented (implicitly) to privacy loss from pedestrians being able to view her apartment. But she has not consented to detailed images of her living space available to millions on the Internet. There is a mountain of difference between hundreds of pedestrians walking by and glancing in, and the collective eyes of the Internet being able crawl over every pixel of her pictures.
  • by Oxygen99 (634999) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:32AM (#19350711)
    Thanks for putting your finger on exactly what was making me so uneasy about this. It's not the cameras or the thought of someone watching, it's the thought of someone watching AND making these images available to everyone, everywhere, all the time

    Once you get away from the kneejerk 'OMFGWTFROFL stupid lawsuit, stupid woman, stupid cat' response, there's an important issue at stake. I sure as hell don't want pictures of me broadcast over the net without my permission. Doubly so if the perpetrators are making money off that, however small my contribution may be. To me, crystallising that moment of my life without my permission takes it out of the public domain and into your domain. If any of you want to come watch me engage in my daily activities, that's cool, at least until I call the cops or slap you upside the head, but don't you dare broadcast those images without my permission.
  • Overly dramatic much? There is more than a small difference between having a static street level view of an area and having constantly monitored live camera's following your every move.
  • 100% dead on (Score:4, Insightful)

    the attitudes in the posts here reveal the prejudices and stereotypes of the usual slashbot

    namely:

    1. government baaad

    2. google gooood

    i was just reading the comments under the story about anti-forensic disk tools [slashdot.org] and the level of paranoia about a hypothetical situation involving disk access by the government was everywhere. and all around was an evisceration of the 'if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to hide' attitude

    and then, bam, you turn around and read this story, and 'if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to hide' is a synopsis of the attitude of a lot the posters!

    dear slashbots: your prejudices are showing. what you need to do is pick an ideological position on privacy, and apply it equally to google and the government. because when you use a double standard on privacy in regards to a darling internet company versus the bad ol usa government, you are revealing some pretty flimsy stereotypes and prejudices on your part

    in fact, you could make the case for worrying about google more than the government. given the legal bonds that tie the hands of the government, usually populated by incompetent bureaucrats, as opposed to what the highly competitive cutthroat corporate business environment might drive its employees who are caltech and MIT and stanford PhDs in their field to do, i might worry a whole HELL of a lot more about what google is doing with my privacy than the usa

    one would hope some of you would aspire to be a little less transparent and hypocritical and shallow and see-through in your beliefs. on the issue of privacy, you better upgrade your attitude of the us government to that of your attitude towards google, or downgrade your attitude of google to match your attitude towards the us government. but overly excusing google and overly indemnifying the us government is not an intellectually or morally coherent position for many of you
  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@g m a i l .com> on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:41AM (#19350827) Journal
    Thats a pretty strong misrepresentation...Google didn't drive their van through her house. Everything you can see in the picture would have been just as visible if you were walking down the street and happened to look up.

    Generally, if you can take a picture of it while standing on your own land, or on public land, then it's legitimate. People are generally understood to not have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" if they can be seen doing what they're doing from a public street.
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:56AM (#19350971)

    So how many snapshots does it take to build a document? Two? Ten? A thousand? Is a 24/7 video record of your entire life just 2,073,600 snapshots a day that happen to be strung together in a 24fps video feed?

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:59AM (#19351007)
    Is a moving target.

    You've got a right to privacy anywhere you've got a reasonable expectation of it.

    Nude sunbathing behind a privacy fence means that you don't expect your neighbor's 15-year old son to get out his dad's stepladder.
    As soon as someone convinces a judge that people have reasonable expectation that satellite images of their nekkidness are going to be publicly available, that "reasonable expectation of privacy" goes away.

    If this hasn't happened yet, it will soon.

    Same thing with the street images.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:02AM (#19351035)
    Privacy is not dead or in a coma, we just may have to iron out the issues with what should be public and private in light of the fact that modern technology makes tracking our comings and goings so easy.

    For example, what you buy has always been public knowledge, and someone could have from the beginning of time followed you around every time you went to a store and see what you bought, and published this wherever he felt. They could also sit in on every court hearing and see who has been arrested in their neighborhood recently and sent out a newsletter broadcasting the fact. However, until very recently this would have been ridiculously costly and a waste of time. The computer age has made this cheap and easy to do.

    Many people don't realize that the deeds to their property is public property, and a sufficiently nosy neighbor could have always went down to the town hall/court and looked up what everyone on their block paid for their house (this is usually listed on the deed).

    Same thing with satellite and street level views. You are on a street and taking pictures, there is nothing illegal about this. All those tourists taking pictures in Times Square have tons of total strangers in the background. Some of them may be picking their nose- are you violating their privacy if this gets published? Twenty years ago, even if a picture like that got published, you might be exposed to a little embarrassment for a short period of time in whatever localities happen to read and saw that picture, but thats it. Nowadays that can make you an overnight Internet star, causing lasting and widespread humiliation.

    How we deal with these issues is going to be a hot topic for the next few years while things get sorted out. However, I don't think we had any more privacy in 1960 than we do now, except for the cases where we now have to show ID to do things like board airplanes. Today we have the technology to easily collect and connect the dots on all these pieces of information that used to be difficult to obtain.
  • by Doctor Crumb (737936) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:03AM (#19351051) Homepage
    Really, this is no more an invasion of privacy than anything that happens when living in a small town. People think that cities gave you anonymity; these days search tools are just removing that misconception and making it so that other people can in fact associate the publicly visible bits of your life with your identity.

    People should either:
    - get over it and accept people can see/find things that you do in public
    - close their blinds or otherwise reduce the amount of their lives that are visible to the public.

    It seems entirely obvious that if there is something you don't want seen by strangers, you should take efforts to keep it out of their sight. It's entirely possible to have a private life, just not in public spaces.
  • by sckeener (137243) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:04AM (#19351067)
    The US concept of privacy is an aberration. Should we strive for it? Yes, but we shouldn't expect it to last.

    For centuries, families have lived in squalid one bedroom homes where the entire family slept and did other things in the same bed. Everyone knew everyone's business. When the founding fathers thought of privacy they were thinking of the privileged.

    I think it is extremely silly to expect privacy to last.

    we are living in an age where the average person can get equipment to see through walls, record conversations or videos, and do background/financial checks from their desk.

    Two things are going to happen....some people are going to be annoyed by what they see and want to stamp it out....and some people are going to say 'so what? I saw something like that last week.'

    The real question is when the offended person tries stamp out the activity are you going to defend it even if you don't do it?
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sglider (648795) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:11AM (#19351145) Homepage Journal
    First off, I can't believe you were modded +4 insightful.

    Trollish comment aside, here's why I can't believe that:

    Your Comment presupposes that liberty is what I want to do, and not what others see me doing.

    You want people to freely do whatever they wish with their windows open, without someone watching. Guess what? People can and will watch, and unless your blinds are closed, or they are on your property, what they are doing is simply an extension of their rights as citizens. The same rights you have.

    If you don't want people to take pictures, or watch you, close the blinds. You cannot complain, and certainly cannot sue or try to get someone in legal trouble because they 'invaded' your privacy by taking pictures in a clearly open window.
  • by friedmud (512466) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:21AM (#19351251)
    The difference is in the length of "surveillance"... if you are putting up a video camera looking at someone else's house, then you are documenting everything about their life and what they do on their property... that is an invasion of privacy.

    On the other hand, a single photograph on a single day of someone's private property is _not_ (in my mind) an invasion of privacy... it's just happenstance. You are not systematically documenting someone's life, only getting a single picture at a point in time.

    Friedmud
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by enjahova (812395) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:24AM (#19351277) Homepage
    If you live in America, you'd be surprised what you can get away with. There are very few privacy laws on the books, and the ones that are there are on the state level. Ever wonder why paparazzi still have jobs? Because there are no laws against taking pictures of people that are in your line of site. Don't you think with all the money celebrities have they could have hired a decent lawyer by now?

    Most laws that might defend some of your privacy are not intended to protect your privacy, but rather your wallet. You can sue the crap out of someone for using your image/likeness (thats why TV shows always have those waivers) especially if its for a commercial purpose.

    I challenge you to find those laws you are talking about. I would be willing to bet if you walked down the street taking pictures through peoples windows, and the police got called on you the only thing that would happen is they would tell you to stop. Maybe worse if you look like a terrorist ;)

    Technology is rapidly changing our whole environment. You may notice from observing people that they hate it when their own privacy is violated, but they will violate someone elses privacy in a heartbeat. What happens when everybody (not just your big brother) has cameras and access to the internet? Well, the definition of privacy will change. It has already changed quite a bit, ignoring the big brother surveillance going on, we can look at facebook and myspace. People over 40 generally don't go near these sites because they feel like it would violate the hell out of their privacy, yet students and youngsters use these sites to broadcast their lives to the internet everyday. A lot of slashdotters mourn the loss of privacy with stories about governments and organizations using technology to invade our lives, but sooner rather than later we are going to see our brothers and sisters have the capability to do the very same.

    Personally, I think its quite exciting to see how we will adapt to the changing environment. Has anyone ever talked to an old person (over 60) that hates cell phones, or only carries one during the day because they feel like they have no privacy if they carry it at all times? We picked up cell phones like they were there all along, and I believe we will do the same with cameras+gps+internet.
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kurrurrin (790594) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:27AM (#19351313)
    Ok, let's see here. 1 picture taken versus 2,073,600 a day. That would take a lot of Google vans (or just one British government).

    Anyways, you're hyperventilating here. Are you going to get this up in arms with the people on Flickr who post their vacation photos? It is the same thing. Google went for a drive and took pictures to show an experience. That doesn't mean that the van is on constant duty in that city, retreading the same routes and taking new pictures. If it was doing that, then you could make a case that they are documenting lives. But one picture does not warrant the level of paranoia that you are exhibiting.
  • Re:Privacy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:34AM (#19351403)
    Feel free to exercise your right to privacy - close your drapes.
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dave420 (699308) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:40AM (#19351493)
    I don't want to sound rude, but that's rubbish. The cops can't and won't arrest you simply because someone says your curtains are closed all the time. You have to be a certified paranoid schizophrenic to believe that happens, and that it's cool by the cops. The cops, on the whole, DO believe you innocent until proven guilty. Whenever it's brought to the attention of the public that they have acted otherwise, untold pressure is brought to bear on them by the various civilian watchdog/oversight/complaint organisations, not to mention the higher powers in the police force itself. When the police asked people to be on the look-out for people involved in the growing of drugs, they said to look out for really, really strong odours of cannabis, and report those. That means the police will come round that person's house (note: not your house, theirs), and if the police can smell it, then they have probable cause to enter your property. Not growing drugs? No arrest. Growing drugs? Arrest.
  • by drachenstern (160456) <drachenstern@gmail.com> on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:45AM (#19351579) Journal
    possibly coerce you and keep you in line and maintain their own existing power-base if they don't implement such measures.

    It is an old saying, but I'm sure we've all heard it before: "When we are afraid, we will do anything to feel safer." So the Government that is afraid that it is losing it's grip will force the People to live in fear.

    Sure you don't always think of the fact that you're afraid, but when's the last time you were on an open stretch of highway and just wanted to have a brief moment of the exhiliration that you see portrayed on film of speeding and pushing you car to the limit, or when have you ever wanted to climb to the top of a skyscraper just to see the view?

    Granted the greater good is maintained when you don't run 120mph down the road, and surely you cannot fall to your death if you are not allowed to be in the open air at 1200ft. But when it's just you, and there is obviously no one else around, can not be anyone else around, why couldn't you go 120mph? It's your car. You fund the highway.

    Now here come the nay-sayers to claim that there must be law maintained so you cannot go over the speed limit. Here come those who claim that my speeding is killing the environment. Here is my tormentor who claims that the wind must surely blow me to my death. There are those who claim that surely I will injure someone, or cause grief to come upon my family if I die.

    I do not deny these facts, but I also do not deny that I am more than capable of handling my car at 120mph on a flat stretch of road, and am capable of doing slight corners at well over 90mph. Many rally-car drivers do it daily. And no, I do not own a rally-car, nor do I think I do. I am aware of reality.

    I do not deny that I would not want to fall 1200ft to my death. I do not argue that indeed I am afraid of heights that tall. But I do know that the wind in my face is great, and that the view from the top of a mountain is spectacular, so why would the view of man's great accomplishment be any less spectacular? And what if I want to be on the open, upper-layers to admire the spectacular building adornments that the architects designed into the building?

    But would any police officer understand your plea of unbridled passion for life if he witnessed your speeding? Would any security officer share your passion of witnessing the majestic glory of what Man can accomplish?

    So until the Government can remember that we are not all bodies politic, and instead that we are people with emotions, and not just People, then, no, the Government cannot allow us to feel that we are do any sense of privacy.

    We must not stand by and idly allow our freedoms to be taken from us. I can understand the need to protect the people, but as Ben Franklin so aptly stated: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." I agree with the sentiment. I don't see how any self-aware man cannot agree. I am not for the disarming of the military, but I am for the reduction of Government on a Federal level. It is to the State to preserve the rights of the individuals who live within its borders. It is to the Federal Government to preserve the authority of contracts between states and to defend the common borders.

    We've all had the history classes, but who amongst us still believes that the Government should be for the People, and of the People? Obviously not those who run the so-called Government, nor those who sit at the head of the Corporations which control the Government.

    I have gone on long enough with this short rant, so if you wish to tear this apart, go ahead, and I'll respond in like.

    I know my position and I am not afraid to defend it, nor to redefine it with new information learned. I know myself.

    I am for the death penalty, but I am against death row. I am for capital punishment, but I believe that any punishment must be decided upon by a jury, and any proceedings against the accused must start
  • by TheNicestGuy (1035854) on Friday June 01, 2007 @11:01AM (#19351825)

    Everything you can see in the picture would have been just as visible if you were walking down the street and happened to look up.

    A true statement and a valid point, but there's a piece missing from the "walking down the street" analogy that seems to be eluding most of us. When a person walks down the street and looks into a home through a street-facing window, it's extremely unlikely that the window is actually a one-way mirror that only allows viewing in. So yes, they can see what's inside, but anyone inside can also see them. Stop and think about that for a moment, because it's a natural check-and-balance mechanism that, in my opinion, should not be left out of these sorts of privacy discussions: While you can't deny other people the right to look at you in public without your permission, it's only fair that you get to look at them at the same time. If nothing else, it's reasonable to at least have the opportunity to know who is looking.

    But with Google Street View, or the Zaio Corp. database [azstarnet.com], or any similar endeavor, you don't get that courtesy. Even if you were lucky enough to spot the camera in the ten to fifteen seconds it was visible, you still don't know how many millions of people just looked into your life at that moment. And don't forget this is Google we're talking about: among other things, the new background checker for lazy hiring managers, who naturally have your home address at the top of your résumé. Suddenly anyone who lives in a Street View-covered area had better:

    1. have heard of Google Street View;
    2. look up any addresses that people might associate with them on Google Street View;
    3. zoom in on every angle to make sure there's nothing that compromises them—and a pox on the first fool who tries to imply you can't be compromised in a snapshot if you're not doing anything wrong;
    4. request a takedown from Google on anything they don't like;
    5. wait and see how fast Google rushes to put a big gaping hole in their lovely new feature.

    For the record, I like Street View. I've been hoping Google would add something like that for some time. But don't gloss over the privacy concerns by equating walking down the street and looking through a window with driving a van down hundreds of streets taking millions of photographs and associating them with street addresses on the world's largest search engine. Only one of these makes your private life public, and it's not the first one.

    • The feature in question is a toy being used to entice more people to use Google's services as opposed to other companies.
    • This is not a NEW development, other companies have been doing similar things and providing them either free or for pay for years now. Many online mapping and real estate companies provide a "Street View" product.
    • There is absolutely NO incentive for Google to introduce this mythical "Google Cam". Where is the money for running these? Where are the added page views? Do you honestly think Google is marketing to stalkers?

    Pull up the NYTimes article and actually look at the image the woman is complaining about. Tell me that if you were not already looking for a cat, you would have noticed it. Then tell me that this isn't simply someone making a tempest in a teapot.

    I understand, really I do. Now that Google is no longer purely the "Underdog" it's popular to point out every potential path it can take down the 'Dark Side" as a de facto "they are going to do this next!". We've been burnt in the past, and project our fears of every bad corporation (real or fictional) we've ever read about onto them. But come on, this isn't even remotely the same as Britain's Big Brother system. We are talking about a van that drove through an area one and took pictures of publicly visible objects, not a series of surveillance equipment designed setup to ensure every action you take is recorded for prosperity.
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hswerdfe (569925) <slashdot.orgNO@SPAMhoward.swerdfeger.com> on Friday June 01, 2007 @11:18AM (#19352139) Homepage Journal

    It's not like Google is trying to force anyone to do anything. They aren't trying to steal anything from anyone. No extortion. No blackmail. No motives at all really, except to sell ads by helping people avoid getting lost.
    Not to go all communist or anything but I would Like to draw an analogy.
    A fictional company that dumps toxic waist in a residential area may not have a motive to kill off the residence. They may simply see it as cheap way to dispose of waste, making them more profit. Similarly while google might not have a motive to destroy privacy they are doing so. In all situations people (companies are run by people) need to consider the public benefit. If a product or service does more harm then good to the public as a whole, then it needs to be removed, even if it is profitable.
    If it is not removed by the company then it should be removed by the state.

     
  • by Politburo (640618) on Friday June 01, 2007 @11:26AM (#19352249)
    PANYNJ Governance [panynj.gov] "The Port Authority is a financially self-supporting public agency..."

    Having an interstate compact does not mean that the entity is free to infringe on your constitutional rights. That would be quite a loophole.
  • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Friday June 01, 2007 @11:34AM (#19352377)
    The inside of my house is *not* a public space ...

    If someone can see inside well .. they can look ... but if they take a photo and publish it then that is invasion of my privacy

    The paparrazzi have been prosecuted in some countries for doing just this and taking pictures of people in private gardens and private beaches ... In the USA "land of the free" your milage may vary ...

  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dfarcanjo (631428) on Friday June 01, 2007 @11:36AM (#19352415)
    Seconded - mod parent up.

    One way to put this in perspective is to follow the same argument used with the open-Wi-Fi-is-not-public debate.
    She knows glass is transparent. She knows people may look without her knowing, and that this is actually a feature (not a bug) of a glass window in many situations. It's common to have people hang signs and other seasonal stuff on the inside of glass windows. Heck, some people would actually like to show off their cats.
    She needs to show she's done her part in protecting her private life. Even if it's not perfect, putting up blinds clearly states "this is my house and I don't want anybody looking in".

    Now, there may be a difference between me accidentally getting her cat in a corner of a personal pic, and google publishing her cat in a public website, but that's another story.
  • by DrYak (748999) on Friday June 01, 2007 @12:25PM (#19353145) Homepage
    If she wants privacy shouldn't she just buy nice curtains, instead of bitch about her cat's exposure over the internet ?

    Next week's News flash :
    Government to put an addendum in DCMA declaring curtains as an illegal method of circumvention of public anti-terrorist spy surveying. Think of the children.
  • It's all her fault (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2007 @12:39PM (#19353379)
    Yup, this sure is a stupid woman. I can't understand her complaint at all.

    "They can see my cat!" she cries.

    "Oh, shut up," howls the crowd. "If you didn't want people to look in, you should have put up curtains."

    2010: Google-InfraCam is announced.

    "I put up curtains, they can still see my cat," the woman cries.

    "Oh, shut up," howls the crowd. "If you didn't want people to look in, you shouldn't be living so near to the street."

    2015: Google Telescope Cam introduced.

    "I moved ten miles away from public land, they can still see my cat!" the woman cries.

    "Oh, shut up," howls the crowd. "If you didn't want people to look in, you should have encased your house in lead."

    How far does a person have to go to protect their privacy? Yes, the examples above are a bit extreme, but the point remains: we shouldn't have to live in a dungeon to maintain some semblance of privacy. Especially when it's well within Google's abilities -by blurring the photos, for instance- to prevent easy identification.

    I can't understand why people are so willing to throw away what little chance of privacy they have, especially since -once it is gone- it's never coming back. The case in question about the woman's cat is a bit preposterous, I'll admit, but it's better to settle these issues now rather than just silently wait for the problem to get worse before speaking up.

    Or is everybody just so desperate for their "fifteen minutes of fame" that they are willing to sacrifice not only their privacy for the rest of their lives, but the privacy of everybody else as well?

  • by norman619 (947520) on Friday June 01, 2007 @01:20PM (#19354061)
    So I guess I invade people's privacy almost everyday when I goout and take phots in the neighborhood and happen to get shots of open windows in the background when shooting my little girl chasing our cat. Get real people. How is it invasion? Is she someone google would want to spy on? Sounds a bit paranoid to me. Peopel leave teir windows and/or blionds open all the time. Peopel who walk by have a clear view of the inside of the house. Why doesn't she go after all the peopel who pass her open window while on a stroll for invasion of privacy?
  • Re:No it isn't. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 01, 2007 @01:49PM (#19354563)

    But one picture does not warrant the level of paranoia that you are exhibiting.

    It's not the one picture that matters, it's the general principle and the precedent and expectations that are being set.

    Either our privacy matters, or it doesn't. Either someone taking a photograph of the inside of another's home is an invasion of their privacy or it isn't. If privacy matters, and someone taking a photograph of the inside of another's home is an invasion of that privacy, then as a simple matter of principle, taking that photograph should not be allowed.

    If you don't draw the line there, in fairly black and white terms, then in a few years you have many people/organisations taking many photographs of many other people, and the data mining goes beyond simple invasion of privacy and starts leading to people being actively damaged by those who have compiled comprehensive information about them.

    But by then, it's too late to stop it, because the damage was already done the moment you decided it was just one photograph so it didn't matter.

    Oh, and it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you. As you point out yourself, the British government already is well on the way to constant video surveillance of the entire population.

  • by h4ck7h3p14n37 (926070) on Friday June 01, 2007 @02:57PM (#19355655) Homepage
    Perhaps she should close her blinds then?
  • by Jtheletter (686279) on Friday June 01, 2007 @06:33PM (#19358707)
    You're the dolt, but thanks for falling victim to your own logic. There are two parts to your probability estimation, it's called Risk Management. We assign weights to the outcomes as well as their probabilities. So while it may be unlikely that event A happens, if the failure is catastrophic then we assign it a higher weight in determining a response. So it's more likely google will cause you some harm by invading your privacy, but the harm is likely to be minor. Whereas it *may* (and I'll get to this in a moment) be less likely that the government causes you some harm through an invasion of privacy, the potential harm is many times greater, thus it is to be avoided.

    In addition one must consider the scale of the two entities here, one is a corporation that can only collect information on you if you interact with it in some way. If you don't use google or google products then you are many many times less likely to even be in their databases. This is not so with the government, participation with them is MANDATORY. You must register as a citizen, pay taxes (income, sales, property, etc), as well as licensing for various activities like driving or owning a gun. So we see that google's footprint in your daily life is tiny compared to the government which you come into contact with every day in many many ways. Additionally government data is shared among many institutions and affects everything from your ability to vote, to holding a job, being allowed to drive or travel, or even in some cases it can affect one's ability to live in certain areas. Merely a few examples of how a government record can affect one's day to day life much more profoundly than data residing on google servers.

    The government also is not a static entity, and history has taught us time and again throughout all cultures that unchecked a government will strive to increase its own power and control over a populace. While recent US administrations may have been "nice" there is no guarantee that future ones will continue to respect the rights of the people. The point is that the government has the TOOLS the MEANS and the MANPOWER to affect ones life in many more ways, at many more places, and with much greater effect than anything google could ever hope to achieve short of google becoming a government-sized entity in and of itself.

    Note that I am NOT saying the sky is falling here. Interesting that your reaction to people arguing against your baseless claims is for you to respond that we are UFO nuts who are afraid of sharks. Wow, great fucking logic. I am NOT afraid of some stupid Hollywood men in black scenario, or some shadowy CIA agent targeting me as the fall-guy for some elaborate government scheme. It doesn't have to be that nefarious or complicated or unlikely an event for the government to completely mess up one's life. Want some day to day examples? How about the TSA no-fly list. How many innocent civilians are restricted from flying, or at the very least must undergo hours of interrogations every time they want to travel simply because their name or birth date is *similar* to some suspected terrorist name on the list. This happens hundreds of times every day across the country. Similar lists are also coming into use, like no-sell lists for sensitive equipment or chemicals/fertilizers, or even one state recently (can't recall which) that proposed a no-gun-sale list. All of these lists lack any sort of oversight committee that provides a way for ordinary citizens to have the information corrected or their names removed after presenting evidence that they aren't terrorists. And in the case of the no-gun sale list there was no due process for having one's name placed on the list! That means that someone's second amendment rights could be removed without due process. So people are stuck with large inconveniences or just plain can't use those services. That's just one example. How about an unpaid traffic ticket? Or lost vehicle registration renewal? Just this month my girlfriend's brother was in an minor accident and the respo

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