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June 1, 2007

Google Street Views Captures People in Everyday Action

Google's new street level views of certain cities has had some unintended consequences.  Privacy advocates say the views capture people in sometimes embarrassing situations.  An article in the Telegraph (U.K.) said the photos captured a man leaving a strip club, another going into an adult book store, and a third man being questioned by police.

Kevin Bankston of the EFF had this quote in the story:

"If the Google van happened by your house at the right moment it could even capture you in an embarrassing state of undress as you close your blinds, for instance."

I wonder if he considered the possibility that the neighbors who live next to that individual would have seen the moment live.  Google notes that everything its cameras capture is nothing more than what people would see if they were in the same position as the camera.  Settled law says that no one has to ask your permission to take your picture in a public place.  The only difference here is the picture is more or less available on the Internet as a frozen moment.  That man coming out of the strip club, well, you have the potential for being with us forever.  That's not enough, though, to place black bars across the eyes of every individual in a public picture Google or anyone else places on the Internet.

People who live in urban areas see this kind of stuff all the time.  There are surveillance cameras all over the place, from stoplight cameras to those for crime control.  The Fourth Amendment doesn't even come close to stopping those government activities.  If someone is concerned that they will be seen entering or leaving adult entertainment establishments, then they shouldn't patronize them.  And if there is concern about being captured on pixel at all, then they should not go out in public.  Ever.

June 1, 2007 | Permalink

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