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Windows Live and Privacy 372

An anonymous reader writes "Today as we were biking around our neighborhood in a small city we saw a strange vehicle slowly driving around. It appeared to be an SUV, bristling with cameras mounted on the roof, and pointing just about every possible direction. The first time we saw it, all we could see was that it had a sign on the side, something about Windows. The second time we saw it, we stared at it so hard that the driver stopped and we had a chance to ask him what it was all about. He said he was driving around, filming streets, and that there were people doing this all over the world, and getting data from the air too. It was going to be available on the Web. I asked him if this was Microsoft's answer to Google Earth, and he indicated that it was. There seems to be very little about this on the Web, and I found no mention of Microsoft's collection of this sort of detailed street level data. The Windows site appears to be, although since I use a Mac it didn't work properly. I'm not sure I want my neighborhood viewable on the Web from ground level. And are they going to edit all the people out? I don't see how they could."
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Windows Live and Privacy

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  • by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:57PM (#17093208)
    Yes, this has been going on for some months now. You don't see too much talking about this because:

    1) This is a project in MS lab that has been kind of limited

    2) People don't like to talk about MS making things better

    3) Soon yuu will see Google adding this feature as well. THEN, you will read about this and average Joe will tell you how Google innovates and MS catchs up [bg]

  • Driving directions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by baffled ( 1034554 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:58PM (#17093216)
    It could be useful to see a picture of all the turns when getting directions.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:59PM (#17093224) Homepage Journal
    Cry me a river dude, what makes you think you have the right not to be photographed in public? What makes you think you have the right to tell people they can't photograph your neighbourhood? This is a non-issue, and street level photography tied to satellite appears to be very useful. I have often looked up places I'm intending to go on Google Earth to get an idea of the geography of the location, now I can use street level photography to get some landmarks too. I'm surprised it hasn't been done already and just hope that Microsoft will be collecting data outside the US too.
  • by SeanMon ( 929653 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:59PM (#17093228) Homepage Journal
    But since when is "Microsoft spying on people" news?
  • Woe is me ! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfclavette ( 961511 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:01PM (#17093242)
    I was captured at some undisclosed moment by a camera. Someone who looks for me very hard might be able to see that I was in a public area 10 days ago even tough there's no way to search for anyone, very unlikely that they would recognize me, and I could always hide from the truck if I'm really paranoid. A stalker will stalk you. Not use this.
  • by crush ( 19364 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:08PM (#17093314)
    This was strong already done by and integrated with Yahoo! maps briefly. The test site is no longer live. So, no innovation on behalf of either Microsoft or Google if they start doing it now.
  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:19PM (#17093414)
    Yup, at first I thought satellite imagery would be useless too. Now I use it to imagine what it will look like when I get there so I'll know that I've arrived. Photos from the ground would be all the better.
  • That's not all! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:37PM (#17093584)
    If you go to google maps, and choose the satellite view, and go to my road, you can totally see my car in my driveway!!!

    I mean, how dare they?! Taking a photo of something in a public place*, right out in the open, then putting it on the web! I should sue!!!

    (* Note to pedants - no, my driveway isn't public, but it's open to the street and plainly visible from the pavement)

    Privacy concerns? Don't make me laugh. If they start sending people into private buildings with cameras, get back to me. In the meantime, kdawson, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for allowing such a spin to be put on this story.
  • Of course /everybody/ has the right /not/ to be photographed in public (or private) without consenting to it. Look it up in your country's civil law (unless you are from North Korea or so).

    And of course you are dead wrong. Otherwise no one could take a picture in public without getting releases from everyone that might be in the frame. Now, using someone's image for profit -- that's a different kettle o' fish.

    But being in public means being in PUBLIC. You have no expectation of privacy. Whoa, I can even SEE YOU in public, and TELL ANYONE about it! Including your wife that you were with another woman! If you don't like it, wear a hood.

  • by kherr ( 602366 ) <kevin@pu p p e t> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:41PM (#17093622) Homepage
    I used to work in the public safety industry and at trade shows at least five years ago companies started showing up, hawking exactly this. The sales pitch was that they'd drive these vans around to take street-level photos of the city so the fire or police departments could have these views when dispatching to a call. Kind of silly use of the technology back then, not sure how successful the companies were.

    It seems maybe these companies might have sold Microsoft on the idea. Perhaps there were a whole bunch of data capture vans and no customer base. In the age of Google Earth and MSN Virtual Earth maybe spending money collecting these images are worthwhile. Or maybe just a waste of Microsoft's money.
  • by illegalcortex ( 1007791 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:55PM (#17093750)
    Actually, yes, wouldn't that be the definition of innovation? Otherwise, don't we just call it implementation?

    The Amazon thing was fairly public. I read about it on slashdot, and it's what I thought the submitter was actually talking about.
  • by emcron ( 455054 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:10PM (#17093838)
    Um, no. If you're on a public street, it's fair game. What you're thinking of only applies to using someone's likeness or celebrity without consent to imply that a specific person is endorsing a product. You don't think that every local news station in the US has to compensate people milling about in the background of their news video, do you? If you're on public property you can take whatever pictures you want and commercialize them in nearly any fashion.
  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:20PM (#17093908) Journal
    Yes, they're stills - but the vehicle, and thus the camera, is still on the move. You can deduce this from many locations such as highways where there are up to at least 8 consecutive shots that I've found where the cars in front are still in the next shot. Even if they did somehow manage to stand still on the highways, I doubt they would have gotten all the other traffic to cooperate ;)

    That said - another posted already pointed out that it could still be done. The question is: why on Earth would they? and: are they required to, by law? Answering the latter tends to answer the former when it comes to these matters.
  • by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:29PM (#17093974) Homepage Journal
    Is this kind of thing fair?

    No, it's not fair. But then again, life isn't fair either.

    "Fair" is the enemy of "free". To make things fair you must make other things unfree. That means bigger government and more laws. The purpose of government is to protect your life, liberty and property, not to protect you from the embarassment of being photographed in your pink boxers.

    The power to prevent people from photographing your underwear, is the same power that can prevent paparazzi from photographing Britney's cooch. Is that the kind of power you want to give the government?

    It would be nice if things were fair, but it's not the reality we live in, no matter how much you pretend to perceive it otherwise.
  • Re:Why not? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Aokubidaikon ( 942336 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:34PM (#17094006) Homepage
    Easy. Just take several shots of the same position say 20 seconds apart. Then let graphic software spot the differences between the shots. The differences which occur less are usually people and moving vehicles which can then be replaced by pieces of background from other shots.
  • by fosterNutrition ( 953798 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:52PM (#17094152) Journal
    I'd say ending up on the front page of digg or Fark or whatever is pretty unpleasant, but I didn't see too much of an uproar when the Star Wars Kid was put in the same spot. He was, after all, in more of a private situation than the street. And he is of course not the only one, just the first one that popped into my head. Basically, I agree with you that it is unpleasant, but this kind of thing has been going on for ages without any comment - why is it heinous when a map is attached?
  • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @09:11PM (#17094300) Homepage Journal
    Oh, so to make an innovative program based on a new concept, the people producing that program must have also been the first people ever to think of that idea?

    What's innovative about the Microsoft implementation, above and beyond what we'd seen like 2 years ago []? The absurd marquee Microsoft put around the view?

    Microsoft might very well deliver a nice implementation, but there is nothing innovative about it (unless there's some bit that we haven't heard about).

    Sidetopic: Microsoft Research is grossly overrated. The amount of "they have all the best {X}!" and "their budget is huge!" talk is nowhere near justified in the actual deliverables of this division.
  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @10:07PM (#17094620) Homepage Journal
    A variant of moore's law applies here I think, where the amount of information available goes up at a geometric rate just like processor speed and memory requirements. Ten years ago we would have laughed at someone that said we could get 15ft resultion sat pictures of most anywhere in 10 seconds, but we have had that for what, four years now. What's next? In 20 years will I be getting calls from the local contractor advising me that I need my shingles replaced because they're starting to crack?

  • by 3mpire ( 953036 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @10:12PM (#17094664)
    yeah that van should totally have sat stationary in the middle of traffic for sixty seconds every two or three blocks. that's _totally_ trivial.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @01:49AM (#17095970)
    I have excellant karma. I posted with my real name (first initial, last name). I'm not an anonymous coward since my website [] is in my sig. You, sir, totally missed that and have no sense of blue screen humor. Lame.

    FWIW, I've been running Mac OS X for the last eight months and this is the OS that Windows Vista is copying from. Your cluelessness strikes deep.
  • Why not? Why? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @03:39AM (#17096506)
    Why would they bother to edit people out? Photos of downtown SF with no people would be pretty creepy--like a scene from some sort of post-armageddon movie.

    There seems to be an assumption that they'd have to edit the people out. Why? You don't have a copyright on your face--anyone can photograph it and publish it--with a few limits: I can't use your image for commercial purposes without your permission, I can't invade your privacy (trespassing, super-telescopic lens, hidden camera, upskirt), etc. "Commercial purposes" sounds like a likely avenue for a lawsuit, but the phrase has been narrowly defined in the courts and the fair use exception to it has been interpreted broadly (news reporting, public interest, research, etc.). MS can also argue that their product is the photo of the street scene, not the image of the guy who happens to be standing in it. If they get Brad Pitt on one of the frames and start advertising that to draw people to a commercial web site, Brad's people will sue and probably win; if they get me in the background it won't advance their commercial purposes and it won't give me any ground to sue. In any case, MS surely has well-paid lawyers who've gone over all of this and decided the legal risks and costs are more than balanced by whatever MS hopes to gain out of the project.
  • I never understand people getting all upset about other people capturing light which happens to have bounced of their body in a public space.

    Evidently, you've not strolled around outside naked very much?
  • by mtz206 ( 664433 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:23AM (#17098114)
    And you think M$FT is building this for philanthropic purposes?

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.