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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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by ceejayoz (567949)
      Not to mention willingly posing for another photo that winds up printed in the New York Times...
      • 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.
        • 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.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            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.
            • Re:No it isn't. (Score:4, Informative)

              by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:50AM (#19350899) Journal
              First of all, stalking laws are quite a recent development, and have only been around for about two decades or so. As for Peeping Tom statutes, in most jurisdictions you're allowed to look if you're not on the property you're looking into.

              -jcr

            • 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.
          • Is rent such space in my house for advertising... do you imagine how much would V1Agr4 companies would pay for such a position?
            Alternatively, print an 2A0 goatse picture and hang it over there... you can bet google wont like to zoom-in over there.
          • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Politburo (640618)
              This isn't "documenting your personal life". It's one snapshot.
            • Re:No it isn't. (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Kohath (38547) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:58AM (#19350993)
              You can't be expected to be living out of a dungeon...

              So not having your blinds wide open is "living out of a dungeon" then? Blinds have a variety of settings, and most of them allow privacy. Even some of the settings that let light in the windows protect privacy.

              But the real question is: what is the hysteria about? I understand the preference for privacy, but I don't understand the desperate, hysterical need for it. What's the tragedy when a little privacy is lost? (Normally, in matters where privacy is more valued, people tend to be discrete.)

              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.

              So what should I be scared of? There's some great danger lurking out there that you folks seem to know about, but I don't. I'm ignorant of the horrible peril I'm supposedly in. Please tell me.
              • Re:No it isn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

                by hswerdfe (569925) <slashdot.org@hAU ... r.com minus poet> 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.

                 
            • 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.
          • 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?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          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 card

          • 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.
        • 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.
          • 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Klinky (636952)
          It's a new product. Google Paparazzi(TM). "Where you're famous even if you don't want to be!"
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by norman619 (947520)
          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
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by h4ck7h3p14n37 (926070)
          Perhaps she should close her blinds then?
    • Yes she's given up even more privacy, but she is probably thinking it's a worthwhile loss. Imagine if anyone in the world could view the activities of your home through Google -- at that point, it's worth giving up your identity in the hopes of fighting for a restriction on this kind of invasion.

      Do you really think this service would keep its legs if it was run by Peeping Tom across the street? Of course not! So why should Google retain a right that wouldn't be granted to our good friend Tom?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by qazsedcft (911254)
      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
    • Re:not just her cat (Score:4, Interesting)

      by timeOday (582209) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:18AM (#19350575)

      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.
      Like those dumb guys in Boston who threw all that tea into the water instead of paying a few lousy pennies of tax. C'mon, guys, quit rocking the boat before you annoy King George.
    • That's no cat!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kelbear (870538)
      Y'know, despite all the outcry regarding privacy and being seen in windows, it hasn't been brought up so far so I figure I may as well play Captain Obvious.

      I found Street View to be useful. I live in New Jersey suburbs, close enough to go to NYC on occassion, but I don't live or work there. It gets awfully confusing trying to find my way through there. Map websites helped with this. Hybrid view in Googlemaps helped more since now I can distinguish areas by large patches of color in a top-down view.

      Now with
    • by clem (5683) on Friday June 01, 2007 @02:49PM (#19355533) Homepage
      I agree. It's a whole lot of fuss over nothing. Like anyone's going to log onto the Internet to see some woman's pussy.
  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:47AM (#19350249) Homepage
    if everyone could see my pussy through a window on the internet.

    I'm so sorry, I just couldn't resist it...
  • Old news... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BubFranklin (978317) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:50AM (#19350271)
    Many other companies have been doing this for realestate industry for years...

    Also, copyright law states (IANAL) that you can take pictures of people in their homes from the street. Only no zooming, and with (I think) a 55mm lens at best. Look up the case law. The only think I think that may be challenged in court is if high res photos at 55mm constitutes some kind of new zoom...
    • You can "zoom" in pretty close with Google Street, even if no zoom lens was used while taking the picture. Is zoom really an issue anymore with 20 megapixel cameras?
    • by Jonner (189691)
      Are the photos for the "realestate industry" of random houses, or specific properties?
      I doubt there are details that specific in any copyright law, but this is about privacy, which is a separate issue. Even if there are no laws that specifically prohibit this, it's forboding.
  • Overreaction? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Karganeth (1017580)
    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 robably (1044462)

      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?

      They're different things. Taking a photograph through someone's window isn't the same as glimpsing what can be seen through it as you walk past; it is more akin to standing outside the house and staring in, and inviting hundreds of other people to come and stare through the window, and the person inside only finding out they have been under observation afterwards. It will make many p

  • "Best Urban Images" (Score:5, Informative)

    by doubleofive (982704) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:51AM (#19350281) Homepage
    The Wired blog mentioned in the article has some really good pictures on it:

    http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/05/request_f or_urb.html [wired.com]

  • 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?

    • by Jonner (189691)
      Yes, I think it is a potential threat to privacy that these photos are available on a public web site. Not only can anyone anywhere see it any time, but they can do so without the person being viewed being able to know who sees it. I'm not sure what the standards or restrictions should be, but I do think this type of service changes the situation signifcantly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by T-Ranger (10520)
        Only a cat was in the window. Did the cat tell the owner about the Google van? So the problem is that the cat can't grep access_log's?
    • 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.

  • 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?
  • Personally (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:52AM (#19350315) Homepage
    I'm rather amazed at how well this actually works....a friend of mine is from Miami. He looked up one of the more destitute areas in the city and sure enough there it was.

    We were dying laughing for nearly 10 minutes thinking about a big google van driving through the slums and taking panoramic photos.

    Christ we are geeks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MikeBabcock (65886)
      I want the shot of the locals stripping down the van and selling off the high end cameras ;-)
  • 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.
    • How do you feel about public cameras on every street corner? Hey, it's public domain..
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AutopsyReport (856852)
      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 con
      • by BHearsum (325814)
        I think things change when it's done on such a mass scale.

        At least, they should change.
  • 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.
  • by CowTipperGore (1081903) on Friday June 01, 2007 @08:56AM (#19350353)
    I hope his wife isn't checking out this [google.com] Google Street View.
    • I hope his wife isn't checking out this [google.com] Google Street View.

      If you zoom in on the window sign, you can see that half of it is blacked out (presumably to hide the boobies). Obviously, Google has been removing "adult content" from their pictures, so they can remove private content if they want to.
      I'm sure the guy there might have appreciated another black rectangle in that picture, over his eyes, for example.

  • check local laws (Score:2, Informative)

    by amigabill (146897)
    I live in what has been at times a sketchy neighborhood, and I've talked to the police about putting up a private security camera. Cars have been vandalized, graffiti on sidewalks and buildings, but supposedly the drug house up the road is cleaned up. Not sure if it's state or county law, but I can't point a camera at someone else's private property. I can point it at my property, and I can point it at public property. I cannot record sound, only video.

    Check the laws about this sort of thing where you live.
    • 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
  • If the government was doing this, people would be outraged
    With Google's ties to the CIA and one of the federal government's foremost AI research center, NASA Ames, is there any difference?

    I find the 360/zoom gimmicky -- I found the old A9 maps much more useful. I was able to use A9 maps to select a neighborhood when I was changing cities -- just simple static streetscape photos like a normal person would take. And A9 had a lot more coverage.

  • . . . the first time they catch a politician's cavorting with his mistress (or, more likely, his car parked at her place). Until then, I predict a smattering of divorce cases where these shots are presented as evidence, as well as the occasional naked fat guy caught standing in front of his picture window drinking out of the milk carton. Please, Google, technologize responsibly! ;-)

  • by packetmon (977047) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:03AM (#19350417) Homepage
    a woman who says her cat is clearly visible through the living room window of her second-floor apartment using Street View Funny... I wonder how come no one complains when the DoT, DoJ and other stupidly acronymed agencies throw cameras on every street corner... Out of sight out of mind for some. No one outside of spectators (those who don't actually see through the camera's lens) knows what these cameras see or record yet they assume based on naive premise "the government would never..." Sure the gov would never, that doesn't mean there couldn't possibly be a pedophile or peeping tom working for the government and seeing into one's private life 24/7.

    I wish there could be like true blue public forum based discussions on these matters so people can get a true perspective of reality before wanting their 15 minutes of fame. Would I be mad if Google passed me by on the street while I was scratching my crotch... No. Would I be upset if they filmed my cat? No. Home? No. Would I be mad if it was constant (so called antiterrorism foobar cams)... Yes.
  • 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 hansoloaf (668609) <hansoloaf&yahoo,com> on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:09AM (#19350483)

    If you look closely at the cat in the picture
    You can see the cat looks desperate to get out of the house and away from the crazy lady.

    Perhaps we should band up and conduct a rescue raid.

  • Duh, +1 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550)
    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 oth
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • If your cat/books/whatever else is in view of the general public, then your lack of privacy is your doing. Not Google's.

    If you don't want someone seeing your cat or your books, cover your window. The street is a public place and anyone can go there are look anywhere they want. Why don't you call John Doe that takes your street to his work and tell him to stop looking around in front of your house.

    Your 15 minutes are up.
  • 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,
  • I spotted a former intern of mine in the "Google Dorks" picture. The "kid" looks older than most of his co-workers...

    (And, no I'm not old. I haven't even bought my mid-life-crisis-car yet.)
  • by Fross (83754) on Friday June 01, 2007 @09:28AM (#19350671) Homepage
    ...which was yesterday. If anyone had a problem with content for any of the photos they had taken, they would remove it on request.

    What they're doing is not illegal, as other posters have pointed out, and they seem pretty receptive to the privacy concerns. Kudos to them for doing something very useful with some sort of conscience.
  • 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 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?
  • by codename.matrix (889422) on Friday June 01, 2007 @10:15AM (#19351187)
    Well she doesn't want a pretty low res picture of her cat in Street View but has a high-res picture of her, her cat and the room on the nytimes.com ...
  • Sheesh, The Transparent Society [davidbrin.com] came out nearly 10 years ago, Earth [davidbrin.com] was published in 1990, and some of the same themes show up in Stand on Zanzibar [wikipedia.org] (1968) and The Shockwave Rider [wikipedia.org] (1975). Professor Steve Mann took this further and developed a series of Wearcams [wearcam.org] through the '90s.

    Anyone who hasn't been anticipating this for at least the past decade, if not longer, has some remedial reading ahead of them.

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