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Look Out For The Street View Camera

If you're out on the streets, be on the lookout for Google's Street View camera.

You might recall that Google launched a Street View perspective in Google maps a couple of weeks ago, a version of the map that gives you a sense of actually physically being there. That's literally what Google did with this special camera from a company called Immersive Media. The camera picks up a full 360-degree shot of its surroundings as the car it's mounted to drives down the street. For now, those images are limited to portions of New York City, Miami, Denver, Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Here's where the controversy comes in. Someone obviously has been closely checking out not just the view but the activity happening nearby. Take, for example, the guy climbing over a security gate at a San Francisco home or the man walking into an adult book store in downtown Oakland or the two women sunbathing on a lawn of the Stanford University campus. Credit the Agence France Presse for breaking the story.

I first ran across these images in an online version of the New York Post last week but wanted to verify them for myself. It was then that I realized that some people might not be happy with the images that have been captured. The Post's site showed an image of a woman getting out of the passenger side of a pickup truck whose, ummm, underwear could be easily seen peeking above her waist. But when I went to that address on Google Maps, I found a blacked out screen with a note that the image had been removed.

The NY Post story addresses the privacy issue and quotes an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who notes that people expect a certain level of anonymity as they go about their daily routines. But Google countered that the imagery is no different from what anyone would see if they were walking down the street.

By Sam Diaz  |  June 12, 2007; 9:25 AM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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Comments

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Somebody with some real authority might want to consider reigning in Google. They are out of control, and making arguments against intrusive behavior. We are a nation of private citizens. What part of that does Google not understand?

Posted by: SGA | June 12, 2007 9:45 AM

"We are a nation of private citizens. What part of that does Google not understand?"

Give me a break. You walk around in public. You give ANYONE the right to take your picture. End of story. God Bless America!

Posted by: Freedom | June 12, 2007 10:03 AM

You need to start reading slashdot. They had this almost 2 weeks ago.
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/01/1219256

Posted by: wiredog | June 12, 2007 10:22 AM

The big difference is when we're out in our daily business we don't expect a camera wielding car to capture hundreds of pictures of us and publish them on the net with city and address attached. Maybe if their "photo car" was bright yellow and had a man on a blow horn yelling "I'm going to publish your photo on the Internet" I could understand. What if you're driving down the street? Do you really want the car behind you (or in front of you with that camera) filming your journey for the Internet? Fun to look at though!

Posted by: Tony | June 12, 2007 10:29 AM

It's pictures taken from a public place, public area, anything that is taken from there is legal. They aren't doing anything wrong, if you don't like it, either board up your windows so no one can see even with a powerful zoom lens or don't do anything you don't want others to see...

Posted by: anon | June 12, 2007 10:31 AM

Seems a bit 1984'ish to me. But I suppose you're right. It's a public place. However, wouldn't I get in trouble if I took pictures at playgrounds?

Take a look at this guys list of 300 Google Street View privacy infractions:

http://streetviewgallery.corank.com

Posted by: Big Brother | June 12, 2007 10:45 AM

The key to this technology is the lens, which was invented by a colleague of mine. I believe he has a provisional patent in force, but I don't know if he was consulted by Immersive Media prior to their adaptation to video.

The issues of how these technologies are being used by government especially should be hotly debated, but the technology alone isn't a fault.

Posted by: Jim | June 12, 2007 11:10 AM

as long as it's a public space pictures are legal... including playgrounds

Posted by: anon | June 12, 2007 12:05 PM

Yeah, don't credit AFP. Wired, Slashdot, BoingBoing.net, The New York Times, they all had the story weeks ago.

On topic: People are just pissed that these little glimpses into their lives (relieving themselves on the side of the road, underwear showing) are not semi-permanently etched into the Web. It IS public, there's no privacy issue. If you don't want people looking in your window at your cat, close your blinds. People walking by look in all the time. That doesn't bother you.

Posted by: BdeRWest | June 12, 2007 1:19 PM

People should not have any expectation of privacy if they are visible from a public vantage point. There are cameras all over the place: security cameras, cameras on the dashboards of police cars, camera phones, cameras on notebook computers, and people walking around with still and video cameras.

Posted by: 0ccam | June 12, 2007 3:02 PM

I disagree that we should not have privacy concerns here. I agree that in general photographs in public should be legal, but everyone also agrees that if you were being stalked by an Ex wielding a camera in a public space that you have the right to get a restraining order against that person- DESPITE THE FACT YOU'RE IN PUBLIC. Does anyone not believe in that law? I believe that Google, in aggregating these photos in a large database have crossed over from a reasonable use of the public spaces to an unreasonable use. There is no law that says you can't own a cat as a pet, but there are laws that say you can't own 150 cats. There is no law that says you can't be in the background of someone's public photo, but I believe there should be a law against the wholesale photography of every house and location in the USA. It becomes an online research site for burglars comparing your address they stole from, let's say, a luxury jewelry store to a photo of your house either showing or not showing a sign from a burglar alarm company.

Posted by: DCer | June 12, 2007 5:12 PM

I like the feature. Maybe they should take the pictures very early in the day where there aren't too many people around.

Posted by: Arbizi | June 12, 2007 6:33 PM

Regarding the Ex-wielding-a-camera issue, the problem there is the "Stalking," not the photographing. And I doubt there is a law that says you can't own 150 cats. There ARE, however,laws that provide for the safety and well-being of the animals. So it would be your inability to care for that many that is the problem, not the owning.

Posted by: Paul Smith | June 13, 2007 4:18 AM

Definitions: (dictionary.com)
IN PUBLIC: not in private; in a situation open to public view or access; publicly

PRIVATE: Secluded from the sight, presence, or intrusion of others.

What part of P-U-B-L-I-C do you not understand?

You have no reasonable expectation of privacy when you are out in P-U-B-L-I-C. To beleive otherwise is delusional.

Posted by: Matt | June 13, 2007 9:21 AM

I see this as a potential tool for criminals and terrorists. Google Earth is already being used to survey a site before an attack and it's just a matter of time before they start using Street View to gain more in-depth intelligence. If Street View ever becomes live, it can pose a huge issue allowing criminals to monitor real time activity and track patterns. What's worse is that NYC will always be a target and this is one of the first places Street Viewer has been launched. The leash should be tightened now.

Everyone always complains about spyware and cookies monitoring user internet activity and privacy becomes an issue. Is there really a difference here? It's actually much worse because now faces and location can be easily identified.

Posted by: KG | June 13, 2007 9:22 AM

For Paul Smith:
Most cities have ordinances about how many domestic animals you can have in a private residence. Where I live we are limited to 4 adult dogs and two adult cats, this does not include puppies or kittens. Any more than that requires a kennel license for which most private residences in city limits could not meet the requirements.

Posted by: Matt | June 13, 2007 9:27 AM

I agree that it should be legal to take photos like this and I believe it is.

There is a moral question in place, however.

When people behave in public, they understand it to be a calculated risk of the behavior being witnessed by X number of people. If this continues, people will have to include this as one of the factors.

The moral question: Is it right for a private entity to impose this factor?

Posted by: MrNoonan81 | June 13, 2007 10:10 AM

America's privacy laws are insufficient. There is no reason for anyone to be able to take your picture without permission, whether you are in the bathroom or on the street. More so, they should not be able to publish, sell, or otherwise profit from said pictures. It is different if you are taking pictures of friends/family/landscape for personal use and someone else happens to be in it. Though, a reasonable attempt should be made to avoid it. I could understand selling/publishing pictures that have unidentifiable people in it, so long as they cannot be identified easily.

Posted by: M | June 13, 2007 10:25 AM

They have a right to take my picture in public, but they don't have the right to PUBLISH my picture for profit without my consent. Last I checked, Google was a for-profit company.

They also don't have the right to publish a picture of me that defames me in a misleading way(visual libel).

I'm guessing Google will face a few lawsuits, including class action stuff, over this.

Posted by: Allen | June 13, 2007 11:05 AM

With the case of former President Mr. Clinton the Estate has broken the human right to privacy. Now we have a naked street life. Remember the terrorisms psychosis which is today a question where is the limit before we are going psychopaths.

Posted by: Gotthard | June 13, 2007 12:01 PM

Allen'right.

Posted by: Lucien | June 13, 2007 11:42 PM

Allen'right.

Posted by: Lucien | June 13, 2007 11:42 PM

To BdeRWest and the rest of you exhibitionists: You're missing several points here. First, some of us actually don't like others watching us. Secondly, where would you draw the line? Should we let Google into our bathrooms, our bedrooms? YMCAs universally disallow taking pictures in locker rooms - but that probably wouldn't bother you. Simply because one is in public doesn't automatically exclude the expectation of some measure of privacy. After all, restrooms are in public - should we have Urinal-Cams? You morons don't seem to see the gradual deterioration of personal rights - those rights include a reasonable expectation that someone will not automatically post a picture on the web of you picking your nose.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2007 12:33 AM

To BdeRWest and the rest of you exhibitionists: You're missing several points here. First, some of us actually don't like others watching us. Secondly, where would you draw the line? Should we let Google into our bathrooms, our bedrooms? YMCAs universally disallow taking pictures in locker rooms - but that probably wouldn't bother you. Simply because one is in public doesn't automatically exclude the expectation of some measure of privacy. After all, restrooms are in public - should we have Urinal-Cams? You morons don't seem to see the gradual deterioration of personal rights - those rights include a reasonable expectation that someone will not automatically post a picture on the web of you picking your nose.

Posted by: Special Ed | June 14, 2007 12:33 AM

To BdeRWest and the rest of you exhibitionists: You're missing several points here. First, some of us actually don't like others watching us. Secondly, where would you draw the line? Should we let Google into our bathrooms, our bedrooms? YMCAs universally disallow taking pictures in locker rooms - but that probably wouldn't bother you. Simply because one is in public doesn't automatically exclude the expectation of some measure of privacy. After all, restrooms are in public - should we have Urinal-Cams? You morons don't seem to see the gradual deterioration of personal rights - those rights include a reasonable expectation that someone will not automatically post a picture on the web of you picking your nose.

Posted by: Special Ed | June 14, 2007 12:34 AM

They should consider only blurring the requested images and not remove entire city blocks. The image of the guy

peeing next to the road was removed but about a mile of road where you could zoom in to see him was removed also.
I fear that it could become almost unusable if the policy continues.

If you are looking for some Street View finds I have a site here:

http://www.mapmole.com


Feel free to view, vote and submit.

Posted by: Harley | June 14, 2007 12:54 AM

I added here the most amazing Street View : http://www.geo-trotter.com/cat-street-view.php

Posted by: Geotrotter | June 17, 2007 1:56 PM

Nothing should be blurred. If you are in public, then your picture should be taken. End of story. If you don't like it, then go to a Commie country. God Bless America. Freedom rules!!!!

Posted by: Baba Booey | June 18, 2007 11:33 AM

If you're not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn't be afraid. All these whiners are clearly cheating on their wives, dealing drugs etc. Get a life!!!! GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!!

Posted by: Baba Booey | June 20, 2007 9:51 AM

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