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Google's Streetview Seen As Culturally Insensitive In Japan 524

Posted by timothy
from the so-don't-look dept.
Jim O'Connell writes "Global Voices has a translation of an excellent open letter to Google by Osamu Higuchi, explaining that Street view is too invasive for Japanese traditional values when used in residential areas. Having lived here for ten years, most recently in an older residential area, I can attest to its accuracy — Living in such close proximity to your neighbors, it becomes necessary to 'not look' at everything that you might be able see from a place such as the street, where you may have a legal right to be. The cultural boundaries are simply different than those of the US."
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Google's Streetview Seen As Culturally Insensitive In Japan

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  • Same here. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WK2 (1072560) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:45AM (#24543331) Homepage

    The cultural boundaries are simply different than those of the US.

    It's that way here in the U.S. too. It is impolite to take photos in people's windows. Google just doesn't care.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      yeah, wasn't there a couple awhile back that sued [slashdot.org] google about this?
      • Re:Same here. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by KGIII (973947) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:40AM (#24544297) Journal

        There, like here, they'd have to come on to private property to take pictures with any effect. If I see a Google truck/car/van then you can pretty much rest assured that they've violated the law so much that they are going to have issues. (It is not a simple matter of turning around, they can take pictures of anything they can see from the legal road all that they want and I won't mind a bit but they'll never actually make it here.)

        Culture vs. law.... If it isn't illegal than that culture should have passed laws to protect itself or should enlist the government's aide in ensuring their values are maintained. If that means enacting laws to restrict this in the future and even retroactively have the practiced banned then they should do so.

        Not all cultures are the same and, really, they don't need to be. If they were then where would be the culture?

        • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:59AM (#24544567) Journal
          "Culture vs. law.... If it isn't illegal than that culture should have passed laws to protect itself "

          Well maybe that's not the culture to do that in Japan ;).

          Seriously, in most countries there are plenty of unwritten rules.

          In Japan I believe you're not supposed to eat while walking about on the street.

          And in most (all?) countries, I believe it's the unwritten rule that you are supposed to face the doorway in an elevator, not put your back to the doorway and smile at everyone ;)...

          If you're an alien from another world (or an observant human) you'll see plenty of interesting unwritten rules.

          Nobody writes all of them down.

          It should not be illegal to break those rules once in a while, but if you keep doing that, you're being an asshole.

          It's not illegal to be an asshole in most countries. Do we make it illegal to be an asshole?

          I don't think that's such a good idea. I'm sure most of us have been assholes a few times in our lives.

          To me, a country with a high proportion of persistent and unrepentant assholes shows a failure of society/culture, to outlaw "behaving like an asshole" is not addressing the real problem - many will remain assholes and just behave "almost but not quite an asshole" in legal terms.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ShieldW0lf (601553)

            The problem is, most people are average or below, yet they are all told they should look out for number one and compete, and all of life will be grand.

            Western culture is like one of those dysfunctional families where the kids need to hide food in the closet because they can't trust their parents.

            I personally think the whole thing is caused by the second world war, when entire continents of men abandoned their women and left for a decade. It caused the breakdown of trust in the family unit, and that destroy

        • Re:Same here. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cyborch (524661) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:59AM (#24544569) Homepage Journal

          Culture vs. law.... If it isn't illegal than that culture should have passed laws to protect itself

          Not all countries are like America. Some other countries don't make a habit of sueing each other, but would prefer more civilized approaches. Like, for instance writing a letter [globalvoicesonline.org] and asking them to respect local culture.

          • Re:Same here. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by baboo_jackal (1021741) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @10:03AM (#24545161)
            That's an excellent letter. According to the author, residential streets in Japan are treated as a "common area" - i.e., they're used for excess storage, the residents feel it's their responsibility for cleaning/snow-shoveling, etc, and (the funniest, but also most telling part), apparently old dudes hang out there wearing nothing but underwear.

            The issue is something that anyone, anywhere, regardless of "culture," understands: There exist places where the line between "public" and "private" are slightly blurred - in the states, this might be a row of adjoining, unfenced backyards, or maybe an apartment common area, etc. Anyhow it's not a matter of "culture", it's a matter of geography and population density. Put Americans or Europeans in high density, tiny houses with tiny streets, and see what happens (my guess, the same).
            • Re:Same here. (Score:5, Interesting)

              by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:26PM (#24548107)
              Put Americans or Europeans in high density, tiny houses with tiny streets, and see what happens (my guess, the same).

              My guess, very different. Put Americans and/or Europeans in a similar situation and I can guarantee the murder rate will go way up ("Hey! Stop looking at my wife, asshole!") Whether or not the Japanese like their lifestyle, or whether they simply accept it, is nothing I can comment upon. That they have adapted to it in ways that would be utterly foreign to most Westerners and Europeans is pretty obvious.
        • Re:Same here. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by db32 (862117) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @10:55AM (#24545567) Journal
          Yes, because we always need more laws to protect culture. See banning gay marriage for example. In fact, cultural beliefs should almost be banned from law for this type of reason. I mean, imagine how great society would be if we banned sex before marriage, maybe even tacked on the death penalty for it. You know, like all of those theological nightmare countries that do that now to protect their culture.

          You do understand that our nation is so completely and totally fucked up right now because of people like you demanding that the government "should do something about that". Our society has given up all of its responsibility and demand that someone else (government) take care of them in all aspects of their life. So as long as you will stand there and say government should do something...you have no right to bitch when government does things you don't like. Government was supposed to have limited power and we fucked it up severely.
    • Re:Same here. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:18AM (#24543471) Homepage

      And it applies to many other places in the world too.

      Maybe time for Google to be a bit more careful about what they look at.

      • Re:Same here. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:37AM (#24543807) Homepage

        We recently got Street View in Australia and I honestly cant see what the privacy fuss is about.

        My house is on it. It looks pretty good.
        Nothing invading my privacy at all.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Feanturi (99866)
          You didn't happen to be dealing with a personal issue of some kind on the front lawn or sidewalk when their camera truck went by. If you had been, perhaps you would think differently. I saw a street view image where it was quite clear that someone was buying drugs from a man in a car at the side of the street. Assuming that you like a bit of pot now and then, and not harming anybody, would you still feel comfortable knowing that you're on Street View for all to see, getting your supply? Or, maybe your wife
    • Re:Same here. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by martin-boundary (547041) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:46AM (#24543621)

      Google just doesn't care.

      What this really reminds us of is that meatspace is fundamentally different from cyberspace. On the net, we've evolved the ROBOTS.TXT for just this problem, and everybody agrees that websites aren't private by default, unless the owners explicitly say so. Google is a net company, and views the world as if it was an extension of the internet.

      But the real world is not like the net, and in the real world the ROBOTS.TXT convention is inverted: the onus is not on the people to inform Google which data is out of bounds, instead the onus is on Google to ask every possible person which data is public. As a result, Google's company culture is fundamentally ill suited for meatspace information gathering.

      The streetview example is only one of a long line of self inflicted troubles Google has brought upon itself. Here are some other examples:

      When Google started scanning books and offering them online, it was behaving like a net company, assuming that if it went to a library, everything was available to them unless specifically prohibited, just like on a website. But the real world doesn't work like the web, and Google got sued by publishers. The correct approach was to ask the publishers for permission, for each and every book.

      When Google started offering news stories written by others online, it was behaving like a net company, assuming that if it's on somebody's website, they can use it unless the ROBOTS.TXT says otherwise. But in the real world, those websites were only licensed to display syndicated news stories from the big organizations (Reuters, AP, AFP,...), and Google got rightly sued. The correct approach was for Google to license the material from Reuters, AP, AFP etc. themselves, before showing the material to their users.

      When Google stated that Gmail wouldn't necessarily delete peoples' emails even if they shut their accounts, they got in trouble. In the real world, emails are considered private by most people, and just because they use Google's service doesn't mean they want Google to keep everything.

      These examples show that Google's netroots are both an advantage (when competing in net technologies) and also a disadvantage (when trying to enter markets where the internet rules don't map well to reality). The world is more complex than what Google's management thinks.

      • by Rix (54095) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:54AM (#24543655)

        The fact that Google won those suits, for the most part.

      • by Tim C (15259)

        Google is a net company, and views the world as if it was an extension of the internet.

        I'd buy that for a first or second offence, but you then go on to list a number of similar offences; Google really should have learnt its lesson by now.

        Not only that, but Google is just a company, and a company is made up of people - it is the people who make the decisions. Those people really should appreciate the difference between the online and offline worlds, and should realise that the vast majority of people value

      • The fundamental difference is about opt-in vs opt-out.

        In the real world, you didn't opt-in. As far as we know, you didn't choose to be born, or where to be born, or who your parents would be. This is fundamental to the truths we hold to be self-evident; that all are created equal, and should thus be granted equal rights at birth -- that only through your own actions, after birth, can you limit your rights.

        However, on the Internet, you absolutely did opt-in, in the most fundamental way -- there is no basic h

      • by houghi (78078)

        In other words, we have an opt-out for websites instead of an opt-in.

      • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:42AM (#24544081)

        On the net, we've evolved the ROBOTS.TXT for just this problem

        I've found that the CURTAINS.TXT convention works pretty well in meatspace.

      • Meatspace ROBOTS.TXT (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jamesh (87723)

        I wonder how hard it would be to develop a meatspace version of ROBOTS.TXT... there are several ways this might work that I can think of right now...

        1. An opt-in online system where you log in and say "google can show the picture of my house". A bit tricky to maintain though... how do you stop me logging in to google and approving a picture of your house?

        2. An opt-out online system.

        3. A symbol that you print out, laminate, and affix to your house. Is the resolution that appears on streetview the same as wha

      • Re:Same here. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LordLucless (582312) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:51AM (#24544525)
        What this really reminds us of is that meatspace is fundamentally different from cyberspace. On the net, we've evolved the ROBOTS.TXT for just this problem, and everybody agrees that websites aren't private by default, unless the owners explicitly say so.

        And in the real world, we evolved curtains.
    • Re:Same here. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EdIII (1114411) * on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:47AM (#24543633)

      Exactly. A total bullshit statement, pardon my french. It is not that Google does not care either. It is a pervasive campaign by government and corporations to remove all expectations of privacy from anywhere EXCEPT private property that is literally 100% covered from view. Google is not supposed to "be evil". Yeah right. I'll believe that when they stop keeping logs well past 12 months. I don't mean to bash specifically on Google or anything, but they don't seem to have a stellar track record with respect to consumer's rights and expectations of privacy.

      That kind of behavior is not remotely consistent with our cultural values. Our cultural values are diverse as well, as we are a nation of immigrants. I don't know a single person that is comfortable being on a security camera while in their backyard or even in the front yard. It's just not acceptable.

      Obviously where the US and Japan differ, is that the Japanese still strongly fight for their expectations of privacy or "cultural values" while in the US there is a sense of apathy and hopelessness. Those that would dare to speak up and passionately fight for anonymity, privacy, and just plain decent respect for other people's boundaries get labeled as subversive, unpatriotic, fanatical, and paranoid.

      For the RECORD, I would have to say that AMERICAN VALUES (which anybody can have regardless of nationality, race, gender, etc.) is STRONGLY supportive of both privacy and anonymity. We like to to be free, and do exactly what we want when we want it, within reason of course. We don't believe that we should have to walk around in public or private identifying ourselves to anyone that asks, especially when we are just minding our own business. If someone is watching us, then we want to know who it is. There is a lot more too it, but it is not even remotely close to how I personally feel.

      I guess I just resent the implication since it makes it sound like we are a totalitarian fascist country devoid of any of the freedoms we once cherished, fought, and died to protect. I guess I resent more that maybe, it is in fact, a correct assessment and that we ended up exporting all of our freedom and democracy while losing it all.

      • by arth1 (260657) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:09AM (#24544201) Homepage Journal

        For the RECORD, I would have to say that AMERICAN VALUES (which anybody can have regardless of nationality, race, gender, etc.) is STRONGLY supportive of both privacy and anonymity

        Being an American who originally came from Europe, I "STRONGLY" disagree.

        Here in the US, people never ask permission before taking a picture that you might be on, for example. If you're in the public, you're expected to suck it up. If you don't want your picture taken, you have to stay at home.

        Then there's newspapers publishing the name and pictures of crime suspects. Which quite often costs people their job and friends -- even if they are later found "not guilty". In other countries, where privacy is valued higher, this is a big NO.

        Then there are the ubiquitous closed circuit cameras in pretty much every store. Even in the goddarn dressing rooms!

        Oh, and try to rent a hotel room with cash, without showing a driver's license. Nope, they want your private information, so they can sell it to the highest bidder. Cause there are no privacy rights.

        And let me not get started on direct advertising. Wonder why you get all the ads in your own name? Because everyone you trade with will happily sell your personal details. Not only name and address, but what you've been buying or which services you've used, so you can get targeted for maximum effect. Take your dog to the vet, and a month later, you get ads for dog food dumping into your mail box. Subscribe to a magazine, and you suddenly get eight different catalogs in the mail with the same misspelling as the magazine.

        Here in the US, privacy is a commodity, not a right. I can think of few, if any countries I have lived in that had less privacy rights. Certainly not any of the European countries.

        • by EdIII (1114411) * on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:28AM (#24544253)

          You mention a lot of problems, yet also don't mention any Americans that you KNOW that actually AGREE with what is taking place.

          There is a BIG difference between what is actually happening in the US and what the average American is actually comfortable with. Bush does not have an approx. 30% approval rating for no reason.

          I don't know a single person that is comfortable with the examples you gave. NOT A SINGLE ONE. Everybody I have ever had a conversation with, in person, is as outraged and disturbed as you are by the erosion of privacy.

          The real problem is one of representation. The average US Citizen has NO REPRESENTATION WHATSOEVER. I would state 100,000% that ONLY companies and various organizations get represented in US government today. There is NO VOICE for privacy rights, anonymity, and freedom anymore. It is just one long continuation of arguments and supporting events (which some claim are manufactured) to progressively remove all rights to privacy of any kind. RIGHT DOWN TO YOUR DNA. If they really can read thoughts in a decade or two, I would not even be surprised if that loses it's privacy too.

          So I REALLY understand your point, but please UNDERSTAND MINE. The America you are talking about is not one that was created by the people. It was created over the protest of Americans every single step of the way.

          • Everybody I have ever had a conversation with, in person, is as outraged and disturbed as you are by the erosion of privacy. [...] I would state 100,000% that ONLY companies and various organizations get represented in US government today. [...] The America you are talking about is not one that was created by the people. It was created over the protest of Americans every single step of the way.

            Yeah right. Most Americans don't think about and don't care about these issues. Yeah, if you have a conversation with one they'd probably say they don't like it. Maybe they'd even be "outraged". But would that make them protest or otherwise take political action? Keep them up at night? Or even make them think much about it later? No. Not beyond a tiny minority that is over-represented here on Slashdot.

            The America being spoken of was not created by corporations, but by public apathy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dirtside (91468)

          If you're in the public, you're expected to suck it up. If you don't want your picture taken, you have to stay at home.

          I'm reasonably certain there isn't a country on Earth where the common expectation is that anyone taking a picture in public will ask every single person who might end up in the shot if it's okay with them. Go find a picture taken by German, Japanese, whatever country's tourists in Times Square. You think any of them has ever once asked the hundreds of people milling about if it was okay

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shoemilk (1008173)
      This is a country that blurs out buildings on TV shows so people won't know where they are. It's ridiculous sometimes. The entire screen will be a giant blur except for the staffer's head floating in the middle. On the news, if a building is shown, half the time it'll be from an odd angle that won't allow you to make out the surrounding area or blurred out all together.
    • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:13AM (#24543969)

      I use it all the time for work. It augments the directions they give you , and gives you an idea of what the place you're looking for looks like. The pictures are taken from the street, so I won't see anything on street view that I wont see later when I'm driving down the street. If the cultural norm is not to look in certain places, why can't you just not look there in the google pictures?

      I was putting together a photo-log of monitoring wells the other day, and I needed a picture that I'd forgotten to take while I was in the field. Rather than go back out just for one stupid picture than no one is probably even going to look at, I went on street view and got the picture. It is very useful, and I don't see how it is realistically an invasion of privacy. It is obviously intended to give people a general idea of how landmarks in the street will appear, and it is really too low-resolution to be used for anything else.

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:52AM (#24543361)

    I don't know that what google is doing is taboo seeing as they are a technology in this case not a person.

    If it's taboo to spy on your neighbors then don't use Google's street view. Or at the very least keep the view centered on the road.

    You can't claim "the photo made you look". It's like child pornography. The fact that it exists does not force you to go download it. If you find it impolite to look at people's houses... don't look at people's houses. I'm going to let those who find the images offensive in on a little secret: nothing is stopping some insensitive smeghead from just driving down your street and staring at your house.

    My view on all this? The Googmobile drove past work this last week and I hung out the window and waved.

    • by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:00AM (#24543397)

      I don't know that what google is doing is taboo seeing as they are a technology in this case not a person.

      And Google is not run by people?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:07AM (#24543415)

        And Google is not run by people?

        Of course Google isn't run by people. The company reached singularity years ago.

      • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:07AM (#24543417)

        If the people at Google were reviewing the images then yes it would be 'run by people'. But I imagine the process is almost completely automated by this point. The invasion of privacy is to look at someone's house. Not the camera capturing the image.

        It's a question of ethics. A camera cannot commit an immoral act. Only a photographer can. Google's web crawler cannot be charged with child pornography possession if it simply indexes a page containing child pornography. Google's street view is nothing more than an automated tool which captures data.

        It only becomes a question of morality when someone chooses to view those images. Morality can only be tied into intent. If you view child pornography on accident then you have not commited an immoral act. If you intend to view child pornography and you view it then you've committed an immoral act.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's not the act of looking at Streetview that the writer is talking about. It's the act of photographers working for Google who take pictures of places that the common culture would deem too private to be photographed and then putting those up for everyone to see. People taking pictures of your house and inside your windows without your knowledge is very much an immoral act in my book.

          • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:35AM (#24543563)

            Taking a picture inside my bathroom however is physically impossible for a stranger to do. If on the other hand strangers were walking through my bathroom every day then it would be as easy for them to sneak a peek while walking through my bathroom as going online and sneeking a peek. They could be rigged with cameras which I don't know about. If a road ran through my bathroom then every single car could have a secret camera in it. People could be planting tiny cell phone video cameras in dumpsters across from my bathroom. TFA was very specific in its accusation that it was bad because people could look without being discovered. But looking without anyone 'finding you out' is possible without the assistance of google. It requires intent for the peeping tom to rotate the camera to the side and look out the side of the window. If I were there in person it requires intent for me to look to the side.

            This is a human use question not a technological one. Those who have a right to look to the side of the road... should look at side of the road pictures. Those who do not have a reason to look along the side of the road--who are upstanding and considerate individuals should not look at those pictures.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Google created this technology and control it, therefore they are responsible for it's use.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by im_thatoneguy (819432)

            Well I guess that's the root of the argument isn't it.

            Is Google responsible for how you use their technology?

            Is BitTorrent responsible for piracy? It sure does make piracy convenient!

            Street view has a legitimate use and an insensitive and privacy invasive use. Which it becomes is not a property of the photo but of the viewer.

            If there were a real-world means of preventing someone from seeing something which google was circumventing then YES google would be violating privacy. Google is simply refusing to pa

            • by janrinok (846318) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:53AM (#24544127)

              What the Japanese people are about to discover is that their expectation of privacy was ALREADY too high.

              And who gave you the right to decide how each country and culture should think? You might not agree with the Japanese view - tough luck, just don't choose to live there. But you have not got the right to tell others that they are wrong simply because it is not in accord with your own personal view or it isn't the view adopted by your own country.

              Are you honestly suggesting that Google should be censoring content it indexes based on "morality" and not legality?

              No, but Google shouldn't be conducting itself in a manner which local custom and culture say is unacceptable. If Google doesn't like it then they can go elsewhere. I'm sure that there are huge expanses of the USA which haven't been photographed yet. Why not concentrate on their home ground and then, if other nation's decide that it is a good idea - and perhaps there is money to be made - they can invite Google to do the same in their country.

              By the way, has Google tried doing this in some parts of Russia yet? There are areas occupied by the 'nouveau riche' where they will be lucky to leave alive. Ditto, there are areas in China and N Korea I believe where they will not be welcomed. You see, I don't think that they will operate in such places with the same degree of freedom as they expect in some other places, because those nations deem it unacceptable behaviour.

              • by WNight (23683) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:05AM (#24544387) Homepage

                Who are you to tell me that my culture of pointing out stupid superstitions and useless beliefs is a bad one? I have as much right to criticize stupid views as people do to hold them.

                It's not disregard for a strange culture though, it's an unwillingness to oblige stupid requests. I'd say the same to anyone who requested that their publicly viewable house not be photographed.

                These people simply need to deal with reality. They're visible. If that doesn't bother them when eyeballed, they simply need to learn to feel that way about photos. It'd be harder to stop photos than to make unbreakable DRM, and such an invasion upon photographers rights to have a memory aid to things they've seen. It'd just be pure insanity if we were to actually give these people what would be required to accommodate them. If Google can't do this, can individuals do it? Of smaller areas? Just not to share? What's the penalty for violation? What are the allowable exceptions? What sort of crazy rules and jackbooted enforcement policies would we be left with?

                Far better that people just grow up and smell the cameras.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by im_thatoneguy (819432)

                And who gave you the right to decide how each country and culture should think? You might not agree with the Japanese view - tough luck, just don't choose to live there. But you have not got the right to tell others that they are wrong simply because it is not in accord with your own personal view or it isn't the view adopted by your own country.

                I'm not judging their belief. I completely agree with it. It should be taboo to snoop on your neighbors and stare at them. All that I'm saying is that Google is not the problem--the problem is the Japanese people are about to come to terms with REALITY. The reality is that people who want to snoop on them can do so legally and without being discovered.

                They have been living on the assumption that that is not true. They are now discovering that that is wrong.

                My exact phrase was "Expectation of Privacy".

        • I don't think you can just make an automated process and then say that you're not responsible for what it does. That's silly.

          I mean, if I made a little robot to fly into houses and take pictures, you wouldn't be fine with that, would you? Even though I didn't damage your property or enter your house?

          If I posted the pictures online without looking at them, would you be fine with that, and only get angry at the people who visited the website?

          No one where I live would care about street view, since people look

      • by caywen (942955)
        That's right. They are run by search bots and Android.
    • While I somewhat agree, we might do some taboo things in the privacy of our own home. For example, I might occasionally look at pornographic pictures in the privacy of my own home. But I probably wouldn't sit in an airport or coffee shop and look at pornographic pictures.

      So, no, I probably wouldn't walk down the street looking in people's houses. But if I can see what's going on in people's houses anonymously from the privacy of my own home, I might consider doing so.

      Actually, if I were Google, though, I

      • I agree with you but it's sort of like the old saying "A lock keeps an honest man honest" which I completely disagree with.

        An honest man does not steal something regardless if it's unlocked. A lock simply stops a dishonest men who thinks they can get away without being caught. Google maps streetview simply let's insensitive people get away with their insensitivity without as high of risk of their insensitivity being discovered.

        Google isn't providing an image that couldn't be serendipitously and legally aq

    • I don't think this should have been modded flamebait when he's correct. I do think Street View is going to have a tough time outside of the US but the fact is there isn't any thing wrong with Street View and you don't have to use it.
    • by ronocdh (906309) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:52AM (#24543651)

      I thought Taboos applied to people not things

      The notion of what is taboo is generally applied to actions, not people or things. In this case, the action would be 1) viewing things considered private by this society and 2) publishing these things and making them extremely searchable.

      In other words, totally freaking taboo.

    • by jandersen (462034) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:01AM (#24543693)

      If it's taboo to spy on your neighbors then don't use Google's street view. Or at the very least keep the view centered on the road.

      Ah, yes, always push responsibility away, isn't it? Don't you feel this clashes with all the fine words about privacy that we always hear so much about on Slashdot? Or is privacy only important when you hide your own lurid little affair from the view of the authorities? If privacy is all-important, then it is important even to people you don't care about.

    • If it's taboo to spy on your neighbors then don't use Google's street view. Or at the very least keep the view centered on the road.

      I've tried three times to write a polite response to this comment, and I don't think I can manage it. If you really can't understand people's response to the transparent society then you're just not human.

  • We've got an international corporation coming into conflict with local values that its upper management probably didn't even realize existed. I hope that those values win out without having to resort to legislation (ie, Google accepts and removes street view in the areas that request it).

    If that doesn't happen, even with Google, then I will no longer have any illusions about the possibility of peace between those two worlds.

    I wonder what Corrupt.org's take on this will be, if they run an article on it...

    • by jd (1658)
      Most countries have their own boundaries and privacy expectations, very few of which match the general "ideal" American view. Streetview is only possible if culture is ignored, which can only serve to reinforce conservatism and isolationism, as the instinctive reaction to boundary violations is to repel the offender.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233)
      In Australia stranglely enough the pedophilla card was played against google streetview. An article in one newspaper showed a photograph of a campaigner against it with her two young girls - and the implication was that the girls were in danger because there was a photograph of their house on the internet.

      This is one step beyond the irrational fear of a photograph stealing away your soul - in this case the people feared for where not in the photograph and it would take a lot of effort to link the two. Hop

  • It's not like there hasn't been any controversy about this technology in other countries.

  • by Simple-Simmian (710342) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:04AM (#24543411) Journal

    For a country like Japan that doesn't use "addresses" Streetview is a god send.

    • What do they do? (Genuinely curious.)

      • Re:No addresses? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by kbs (70631) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:27AM (#24543519)

        They do sort of have addresses, but it's by subdivision of block. As an example, a particular Hostel I was at was at "Shinjuku-ku, 5-2 Katamachi"

        So to find it you need to go to the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, and then look for the Katamachi block, then find sub-block 5, and then it's the 2nd building in that section. Luckily for me the search space wasn't that large, but it's still definitely a two dimensional search rather than a one dimensional search...

        View Map [google.com]

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          That's not a "sort of address" - it's an address - and a pretty logical one too, by British standards at least.

          Japan names its intersections, not its roads, and generally names "what is bounded" rather than "what bounds it" (i.e. a road.)

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

            The problem is that I heard from my JP teacher that buildings are numbered based on when they were built, not where they are in relative location. The first building on the block is numbered "1", regardless of where it was built.

        • Yeah, my address is set up at a certain block of Inuotose, but since I live in a very small town, I can usually just use the town, the block, and the apartment and get my mail.

    • by caywen (942955)
      First thing, they do have addresses. Either you're wrong, or the thing we write on the envelopes to my wife's parents in Japan are useless scribbles, and we've been getting unimaginably lucky. Second thing, a godsend to who? Sounds to me like this feature isn't wanted. The Japanese are plenty brilliant, and if they needed something like this, they would have had it years ago.
    • by wellingj (1030460)
      No. Google Maps is a godsend. Streetview is fluff.
  • by Scott Kevill (1080991) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:14AM (#24543449) Homepage
    Do they only "not look" because they are worried that someone will see them look? But in the privacy of their homes, no one will know they are checking out other people's houses?
    While I know it is a touchy subject in general, I find their reason odd. If no one wanted to look because of morals, they wouldn't look when they couldn't get caught either. That kind of defeats their higher moral ground argument.
  • by Taulin (569009) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:34AM (#24543557) Homepage Journal
    Speaking as an American who grew up in America, married to a Japanese woman, and lived in Tokyo for two years while going to animation school, going through these street views is pretty spooky. I feel like a ghost freely walking along the streets, watching old haunts of a place I once knew and felt at home. It's two AM in the morning, so my wife is asleep, but I can't wait until she wakes up and I can show her the parent's house!
  • What an interesting article to be up here right now; I am starting my third year living in Japan and last afternoon walked out of my apartment with my current gf to go get lunch, much to the giggling of the next door second grader. While I live in the countryside, people still live close together and I think between me and my neighbors being noisy at different times we've all gotten on each others nerves.

    But as the article suggests, people understand that's the cost of living close together and there is an

  • >cultural boundaries are simply different than those of the US.

    Well then call me Japanese.
    I don't like the fact that anyone with my address can just see what's in my backyard.

    I mean, maybe it's okay if you see it. And you. And you. But not you.
  • by evwah (954864)
    how do you say "clod" in japanese?
  • by caywen (942955) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:55AM (#24543665)
    In Soviet Russia, the street views YOU. Seriously though, I completely agree with this letter. My wife is Japanese and has been living here in the Bay Area for 5 years. She's pretty accustomed to American life, but as soon as I showed the Street View Japan, she went silent and then said something like, "No. no no no, this is bad. Not in Japan. No way." And her friends feel exactly the same way. It really is a cultural difference, and Google really is asking for a world of hurt here. What is astounding is that they pretty much did *all* of Tokyo. Look at how much of that map is blue. Did it occur to them to try it out in a small area to see how the Japanese would react? To me, this reeks of extreme hubris on Google's part.
  • Real estate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NewToNix (668737) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:55AM (#24543667) Journal

    Well Japan may not like Street View, and maybe some people here in the U.S. don't like it either.

    But I'm currently looking for a new (well new to me) house to buy --and where I need to move to is several hundred miles from where I live now.

    Google Street View has been a godsend for me --I can get a easy idea of the neighborhood and usually the property it's self --for free, from home.

    So, as usual, any new use of technology has upsides as well as downsides... and who ever I buy the house from will be very happy about my use of Street view. (eventually I will have to go and take a physical look, but my list of places to look at will be vastly shorter because of S.V.)

  • by D H NG (779318) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:01AM (#24543695)
    This is the country where the most well-known cultural hero [time.com] is a robotic cat from the future who has an arsenal of privacy-invading tools [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by amrik98 (1214484)
      On a more serious side though, isn't it ironic that Japanese care so much about privacy only when it applies to them? They couldn't care less if gaijin (foreigners) get fingerprinted and photographed when they enter Japan. (The only Japanese who ever get fingerprinted are criminals)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tim C (15259)

        Entering Japan is voluntary and requires action on my part. Where do I sign to tell Google that it's ok for them to feature me or my property in StreetView?

      • by ex-geek (847495) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:24AM (#24544459)

        They couldn't care less if gaijin (foreigners) get fingerprinted and photographed when they enter Japan. (The only Japanese who ever get fingerprinted are criminals)

        Oh, you mean like the way the visitors to the USA are treated?

  • partial solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    What about using recognition software that automatically pixelizes human and possibly put symbols or replacement image instead of privacy sensitive place such as love hotels? This is not the matter of culture people. if this matters in Japan it freaking matters here in the States people. i believe that google has such technology and HR to do so. I hope that people are not saying this "You Yankees have no idea how the Japanese live. we like sushi but you don't eat sushi. so don't do that." that kind of appea
  • by bug (8519) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:31AM (#24543789)

    Since when are the Japanese sensitive about photographing private residential areas!?

    I live in the Weststadt residential neighborhood of Heidelberg, Germany. Heidelberg is a beautiful city, and sees many tourists. For some reason, the Japanese tour groups frequently travel down my street. Also, for some reason, many of the older Japanese tourists frequently take pictures of me doing such mundane things as bringing home groceries. I find it amusing that I am probably in several dozen Japanese photo albums, probably entitled "typical German going to the grocery store." I find it especially amusing, because I am an expatriate American, not a German.

    In any case, is it typical for the Japanese to consider their own residential neighborhood private, but everyone else's to be public?

    • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:55AM (#24543901)

      I have blonde hair and blue eyes. Every time I have visited China I have been practically assaulted by Japanese tourists. They not only photo me. They try and touch my hair and start posing in front of me etc etc etc. Needless to say this was unappreciated.

      My aunt lives in Hawaii and japanese tourists are amazed by the size of her feet. She's been lieing on the beach and had Japanese tourists come up and lay down right next to her and have their pictures taken by their family with their feet right next to hers for comparison.

      It's been my conclusion that any view of privacy on the part of the Japanese is strictly limited to the island of Japan. Which I've never had a problem with from a priacy standpoint--just a personal intrusion. I don't care if I'm in a photo. I do care that I'm being prevented from going about my business by someone standing in my way trying to pose in front of me. Or touching me. They can touch my blonde hair photos on the internet all they want as long as I don't have to be there while you do it.

      • by lantastik (877247) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:56AM (#24544137)

        Try being 6'4" with blond hair and green eyes walking the crowded streets of Tokyo. People would come up to me and feel the hair on my arms. They seem to be utterly fascinated with anyone that has any kind of body hair. I guess hairy freaks aren't allowed any kind of personal space.

        Large groups of people, mostly kids and teenagers, would crowd around me and want to have their picture taken. It was just as bad in the Philippines, if not worse.

        I'm glad I don't travel anymore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by amaupin (721551)

        I've lived in Japan for 7+ years. I have blond hair and blue eyes.

        One thing you have to understand about the Japanese is that the majority of them divide the world into two groups: Japanese and others. They CONSTANTLY bring up the fact that I'm a foreigner, even when it has no bearing whatsoever on the situation. They also frequently tell me that they can/can't do something because they are Japanese.

        I've been asked by children if I'm a person or not. When I say "yes" they respond matter-of-factly that I

    • by alexborges (313924) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:07AM (#24543941)

      The japaneese take pictures of sidewalks.... they have this love for the cammera that i will never understand.

      However, dont get them wrong: its completely harmless and they dont go publizicing them all over.

      On the other hand, google is selling your life for profit: there is a difference there.

  • Prime directive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SomPost (873537) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:34AM (#24543797) Homepage
    After I had read the original article [globalvoicesonline.org] I wondered what impulse would be the stronger among the slashdot crowd: the Google-is-god/f***-the-world or the respect-other-cultures impulse. There appears to be ample evidence of both here.
    So I wonder if the Google-can-do-no-harm crowd can recall their Star Trek franchise, and if they are prepared to consider whether the Prime Directive of any decent group (society, country, company) should be: "don't interfere".
    That includes, as far as I remember, to repect the whishes of a society to be left alone, in general and in Street View.
  • Not just Japan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argent (18001) <peter@slashdot.2 ... m ['nga' in gap]> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:47AM (#24543863) Homepage Journal

    Street View is too intrusive for residential neighborhoods in the USA.

    Stick to city centers, airports, freeways. Stay out of neighborhoods. Don't be evil.

  • by alexborges (313924) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:04AM (#24543929)

    Yup...

    Few things will irk the average japaneese more than invasion of privacy.

    This is a country and culture so different from occidental ones that they tend to have no locks in their rooms because nobody would imagine entering without knocking, where people police each other in the subway so that you dont scream or make any kind of fuss that might irk the guy next to you.

    I admire that part of their culture very much because its clearly a civilizatory trend: it makes people very councious about the rights of the next guy: its an insular culture ripe for pure individual freedom at its best.

    Interestingly enough, their rigid social side follows very clear rules and is never very personal: the japaneese keep their inner self... erm.. to themselves.

    I like that a lot.

  • by Kagato (116051) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:40PM (#24548245)

    Fresh off their campaign of getting the English staff of MDN fired for translating Japanese Tabloid articles, they now have their sites set on Google.

    The biggest issue the Japanese sites are complaining about is consenting adults photographed going into love hotels.

    If they want to be concerned about people taking photos how about putting this much effort into all the pervs taking upskirt pictures. How about dealing with the behavior on rush hour trains that creates the need for "Womens Only" rail cars.

    Google street view is an actually really needed in japan because of the illogical addressing system they have for buildings.

  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:39PM (#24548725) Journal

    When I was in Japan shooting Fast and Furious 3: Tokyo Drift in December 2005, I had nothing to do one day, so I did some walking just to see what wonders there were to see -- and there were many.

    The most impressive, though, was a large van...with a one-inch thick sheet of aluminum bolted to the top, on which were mounted four hi-def cameras, four laser scanners, a GPS, and some other gear I didn't recognize. After walking by, walking back, walking away, and walking back again I couldn't help but ask (in English, of course) what they were doing.

    You see, for Fast and Furious through 4, we built various camera rigs to film streets, to use as backgrounds for greenscreen work. This was clearly a similar rig, but on steroids. Radioactive mutant steroids.

    The best english-speaking person on the crew came up to me and said "Ah, are you engineer?" I wish :) No, I am a filmmaker, but I have to know what you are doing!

    He gave me a tour of the whole rig. There were enough computers inside the van to put my computer animation facility to shame. The were driving up and down all the streets of Tokyo, building a 3D, textured model of every building, for use in car navigation units. The geometry information from the laser scanners was merged with the photographic information from the hi-def cameras, and registered with the GPS.

    So -- I find the protestations recorded in the article a bit suspect.

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