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Google Sued Over Privacy Invasion On Street View 481

Posted by Soulskill
from the by-boring-couple dept.
mikkl666 writes "A couple from Pittsburgh has sued Google because a photo of their house appeared on Google Street View. They are demanding in excess of $25,000 to make up for the 'mental suffering' and the diminished value of their home. Their street is apparently marked with a 'Private Road' sign, and they claim that putting a photo of their property online is an 'intentional and/or grossly reckless invasion' of their privacy. Google, on the other hand, claims that this lawsuit is pointless since anyone can ask them to have pictures removed without legal action. We've previously discussed some of the privacy concerns surrounding Street View."
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Google Sued Over Privacy Invasion On Street View

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  • Don't go there. (Score:5, Informative)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday April 06, 2008 @09:45AM (#22979400)
    Here's what makes this case different than the other StreetView suits... the Google van wasn't supposed to be on this road in the first place. A private road means that the owners of the road take no government funding or care for it, and therefore get to decide who they'll allow on it. Google wasn't wanted, so there's the problem.
  • Who's fault is it? (Score:4, Informative)

    by celerityfm (181760) * on Sunday April 06, 2008 @09:54AM (#22979448) Journal
    I dunno it seems like a case of bad judgment on the driver of the mapping vehicle. If you look at the pictures it seems like they drove right up to their garage, taking pictures the whole time.

    It also seems like provider of the maps is also at fault, if you follow along on Google maps you can see that the street appears to extend all the way to their garage [google.com].

    But, there doesn't seem to be any "private road" labeling on the map nor was their any sign visible when I followed the street via Streetview to their house (though they did delete the offending pictures, so maybe the sign was there?)

    Regardless though, I would expect that the drivers of these vehicles would know better then to keep the pictures they took of a property while parked in front of a garage.
  • by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @09:55AM (#22979464) Homepage Journal

    IANAL, however it seems like this should come down a question of visibility. Is the house visible from the street? Then it seems that publishing a photo that includes the house shouldn't be a problem. It would be different if it were a close-up photo of the house, or one looking inside it, but if it's just the same view available to a passer-by, what's the harm? My only question is whether the 'Private Road' sign could cause problems. What's a 'private road?' Do the residents pave it and light it, or is it really a public road maintained by the municipality with a sign that discourages visitors?

    This reminds me a bit of companies that place security guards to stop people from photographing their buildings. My reaction has always been that you shouldn't put a building in a public place if you don't want it to be photographed.

  • by mmcuh (1088773) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:02AM (#22979498)

    asking someone for permission should happen BEFORE acting

    Yeah, that is just so feasible when what you're doing is taking pictures of EVERY SINGLE BUILDING AND HOUSE IN A LARGE CITY. Well maybe not every single one, but you get my point..

    Then maybe they shouldn't do that?
  • Private Roads (Score:4, Informative)

    by qbzzt (11136) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:22AM (#22979606)
    In Texas a private road is defined as one maintained privately, as opposed to a public road that is maintained by a government (municipal, county, state, or federal). Usually the residents who use the road share the responsibility to maintain it.

    I assume in Pennsylvania it's the same. If you don't want people driving on a road, you need to mark it as such. Put a gate, or a sign forbidding unauthorized access.
  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:3, Informative)

    by DRACO- (175113) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:24AM (#22979624) Homepage Journal
    Blah, have they even looked at street view? The images obtained are a joke. Unless the vehicle drive right up within 15 ft of something the images are grossly unfocused beyond 15 ft.
  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikael (484) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:27AM (#22979642)
    If you look at Google maps [google.com], you can see quite clearly that their house is at the end of a private road. The Google road crew drove onto private property, continuing to take high resolution photographs before turning round and going back the way they came.

    A road sign clearly indicated that this was a private road. Maybe Google's road crew didn't understand English, took a wrong turning, or their maps were out of date. Since they took photographs every 10 metres or so, having a photograph of their property is not going to affect its value by any significant amount.

    This really does amount to trespass and invasion of privacy. Any individual is free to walk the streets of their neighborhood and take photographs, so long as they don't enter private property. But as soon as they wander into their neighbors driveways and gardens, neighbors would be justified in calling the Police, and getting them to be given a warning or to be arrested.
  • by MrNonchalant (767683) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:46AM (#22979734)
    Allegheny County has a real estate assessment website which has pictures of every house in the county. Including the Borings:
    http://www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Image.asp?CurrBloLot=0823E00136000000&Street=Oakridge [allegheny.pa.us]
  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:5, Informative)

    by schon (31600) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:53AM (#22979782)

    If you look at Google maps, you can see quite clearly that their house is at the end of a private road.
    No. I looked at Google maps, and all I can see quite clearly is that the house is at the end of a road. There is no indication that it's private at all.

    A road sign clearly indicated that this was a private road.
    Really? I couldn't see that sign from the link you provided.

    This really does amount to trespass and invasion of privacy.
    You haven't proven that, but assuming that there is a sign, and the mappers were guilty of tresspassing, how the hell do you explain the absurd charges?

    If this really was about tresspassing, you'd think that the property owners would have sued for that, instead of this "mental anguish" and "reduced property value" bullshit.
  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikael (484) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @11:26AM (#22980028)
    The UK has similar "Right to Roam" legislation which applies to many pathways and scenic areas. It's something to consider when buying a house or even office space in a business park. You find out that the local residents use your driveway or car-park as a short cut to the local supermarket because 1800 years, a Roman goat-herder went to court to maintain a right-of-way between the town market and the local pasture.
  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mapinguari (110030) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @11:31AM (#22980082)
    They are [thesmokinggun.com].
  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:5, Informative)

    by antibryce (124264) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @11:43AM (#22980174)
    http://www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Search.asp [allegheny.pa.us]

    Allegheny County already put all this information online, years ago.

    Also I'm not sure how you can "clearly see" it's a private road. Since Google posted detailed pictures of the area you would think we could see this "private road" sign somewhere, no? I just used street view to pan around and all I could find was a single wooden post with "Oakridge Ln" painted on it (where it meets Reis Run Road.) In fact you can still follow Oakridge all the way up to their house before google says "This image is no longer available" and still see no posted sign.

    Here's another picture of their house:

    http://www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Image.asp?CurrBloLot=0823E00136000000&Street=oakridge [allegheny.pa.us]

    The people claim Allegheny County took their picture from a public road which, judging by the picture, is the same road Google was on.

    Also how's this for invasion of privacy: They bought their 1 bedroom house in 2006 for $163,000 and it sits on 1.82 acres of land. It gets a D+ rating. It has no AC, 1 bathroom, and 984 sq. ft. of living area.

    That's all available on Allegheny County's assessment website [allegheny.pa.us]. Along with a nice picture.

    My guess is they saw this on Google, ran to Home Depot for a private road sign, and decided to cash in.

  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2008 @01:40PM (#22980998)
    ok, i've already had to post a dozen times to explain to people that a "private road" does NOT mean what you all apparently think it means.

    if you were to take a second and look up what a "private road" is, you'd find that it is a road for which a group of people--usually all those who live on said road--agree to share the burden of building and keeping up with the road. that's it. it merely means that no municipality had taken part in its construction or upkeep. it does not mean that you can't walk down the road unless you live there. it does not mean that you can't drive down the road and snap photographs of every house. similarly, it does not mean that you can't drive down the road in a van with "GOOGLE" painted in huge multicolor letters on the side of it snapping dozens of photos with a roof-mounted system.

    what does this mean to the people suing google? well, it means that there is no legal reason they would win the case. in fact, there's more than likely ample precident for google to tell these uppity white folks to "shove it."

    the fact of the matter is that if your house is visible from any public area then it can--and eventually probably will--end up as a photo on the internet. why is this an issue? i have honestly no idea. as far as i can tell it's just some white folks with too much money and too much free time. nothing to see here, move along.

    p.s. i don't care what lawyers they hire and how much money they spend, the homeowners will definitely lose the case. that's a 100% guarantee.

    if anyone wants to see some white folks turn red, i suggest staging an "african-american AIDS benefit walk" on that very street. the benefit of a private road (at least to people who dont live on it) is that you do not need a permit to host a special event. What's that you say? Your house was on national TV with 5000 black folk speaking about the plight of AIDS? Your property is worth absolutely nothing now? Theres no legal recourse for you to take? well cry me a fucking river.
  • Re:Don't go there. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sax Maniac (88550) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @03:07PM (#22981596) Homepage Journal
    Our street is plainly labeled "Private Road, No Trespassing" because it's still under construction and not public yet. Not that I care about having the picture, but Google doesn't care either, they put it on street view anyway. So, it's not a stretch to say they willfully ignore such signs.
  • by anlprb (130123) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @03:09PM (#22981618)
    You completely misunderstand the difference between government and private corporations.
  • Re:Diminished Value? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SnowZero (92219) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @05:31PM (#22982558)

    On the feeder road (Reis Run Rd) there is a curious sign that says "Yellow Belt" with a yellow circle on it. It looks like a standard government reflective road sign, but I do not know what it means.
    There are several loops around Pittsburgh so people can drive around and see the city, or to navigate around the city as some sort of crude beltway. I found a link here [pahighways.com] with more information. I used to live next to the blue belt.
  • Re:I warned them (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sandbags (964742) on Monday April 07, 2008 @11:54AM (#22989592) Journal
    Not only are their no laws preventing this, there are actually legal rulings stating exactly the opposite. Any part of your home, INCLUDING the interior, that can be viewed from a public location, or OTHER private property and persons admitted to that other private property, is your own responsibility to hide if you wish privacy from view. In some states, the use of magnification or zoom technology to take pictures "specifically" of internal spaces of your home (ie voyerism) may be illegal, but if I get some of the interior of your home while taking a picture of the house as a whole, or of a person in the yard, that's not illegal anywhere, though you have the right to ask me not to do so at that time. The only thing I can't do is use that photo to make money without your persmission (unless it;s a public building or in the case of rental property the owner can give permission even if you don't).

    If you have an open window, walk in front of it naked, and someone sees your johnson and files a suit against you for public display of nudity, you WILL pay the fine. This has been tried over and over again.

    If you don't want people seeing inside your home, you can use shades, shutters, or even polarised films.

    The image of your home is not only public information, it's freely available public information at your local surveyor's office. Also, from public tax records and other documents open to the public, even insurance records, i can see when you bought it, how much you paid for it, what it's current market value is, it's floorplan, where your property lines are, how much you pay in taxes, whether it's part of an HOA or not, and much, much more detail.

    If you don't want people seeing you, close your blinds. If you want privacy in your yard, put up a fence. If you want the image removed from Google, simply ask, and their own policiy requires them to comply, but if I want to see a picture of your house, I have MANY other ways to see one that you can NOT ask to be taken down. ...and that private road? I can LEGALLY walk down it at any time as long as I don't stray more than 6' from the road itself. You can ask me to leave, but unless there's a local loitering law you can only ask me not to hang out there, and you can't prevent me from walking down it over and over again. (unless the road is posted no-trasspassing, ad serves ONLY your house, ie, it's a driveway.) As soon as the city puts a sign there, or gives it an official name, whether it's their road or yours, I can still walk on it unmolested, and sue YOU if you threaten me otherwise.

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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