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Google Street View changes for future Europe version

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

Saturday, December 1, 2007
14 years ago3,746 views

<< When Street View is rolled out in Europe, Google will alter Street View photos to make sure that faces and license plate numbers are no longer visible, and the company is also thinking about doing the same with the U.S. version of the product, said Jane Horvath, senior privacy counsel with Google. >>;_ylt=ApDZJI1yglhhxgmPVx6CdBus0NUE

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

It's a pity; I'd prefer it if Europe moved towards the US standard of openness instead.

Also, society works best when the rules are simple enough to be understood and respected by everyone. A rule of "if you're in a public place, you're in public view. In you're in a private place, it's no-one else's business" is in my opinion a very workable one.

More complicated rules have too many grey edges that get exploited by the more ruthless.

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

<<the US standard of openness>>


Zim [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #


[[and about the change... I preffer to see everything, but .. law]]

David Mulder [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I would actually find it quite fun to find myself walking somewhere... it's a pity; all these privacy rules... @James: You're are absolutely right

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Yeah, If i was on Streetview I'd be like OMGOMGOMG!!! COOOL! EVERYONE LOOK! I'M OUTSIDE...Eh...AN ADULT BOOK STORE YAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!! (shit! damn you streetview!)

Bill Mac [PersonRank 9]

14 years ago #

That's cause you guys aren't up to "bad" shit in public.

We've all read accounts, though some may be fictionalized (which doesn't detract from the point), of people using Google's GIS tools to spy on someone in one way or another. The story that comes to mind is of a cheating spouse/partner being caught at their paramour's house when they claim to be/should be elsewhere.

We talk about powerful agents abusing the openness as if there is some top-down directive for society to start monitoring itself. This is not the case, and there is no us vs. them. We are doing it ourselves, and not out of malicious intent or a conscious desire to keep others in line. The tools are there, we use them, the end result is that some individuals are more affected than they were because their privacy is actually keeping something private that would otherwise affect them if made public. In most cases, nobody has anything to hide when they are in public, or they would not be there. Obviously there are other people around who can form impressions of anything that might happen.

I might be into skinnydipping or some other equally innocuous semi-private activity. Unless I have my own private lake/beach-front property, however, I will be doing my semi-private nature swim "in public", as it were. I have no right to expect nobody will come along and catch me in my moment of expose; I just hope it doesn't happen. Of course, if there *were* people around, I wouldn't be cavorting naked through the surf. What happens, though, when a satellite overhead catches a glimpse of my naked bum? When did machines, like humans, gain the ability (right?) to turn a semi-private situation into a public one? Whats worse, with the machines we're confronted with more than just the chance that someone else might see what we're up to in these grey situations: The machines can work without is ever being aware that there is another impression being made of whatever situation we find ourselves in. If I knew the Googellite was watching me drop my knickers on the shore would I be so ready to do it? Of course not. But that's the problem. We don't know when or if we're being recorded, so how can we adapt our behaviour? Not only do these machines operate as stealthily as described (which is not to say maliciously), they also make perfectly accurate recordings, something no human "in public" could ever do by memory alone.

The automated surveillance of everybody at all times gives as all incredible opportunities to monitor one-another. The fact that most of us won't/don't doesn't have anything to do with it. The fact that some of us can/will use it to compromise the privacy of some other individuals has everything to do with it. A violation of any person's individual privacy is a threat to the right of privacy for all. The cheating spouse has no less of a right to privacy than the innocent programmer.

I hope Google Streetview *does* adopt this policy in the States as well. According to Google will do the same for Canada Streetview as they are planning with Europe. You know why Google is doing this for Europe/Canada? It's simple. Governments define the operating rules of businesses and Google respects those definitions. You know why they're considering it for the States? Because it's the right thing to do. And that's why I hope they do it. I still want to have faith that Google is not evil. (Or that Google is *less* evil than most, which is still important. There are no absolutes in life.) I do not have faith in the fascist nature of US Goverment (my opnion) that they will adopt these same policies as their more progressive Western counterparts, so it's nice to see a Big Corporation do something for citizens which isn't imposed upon it by a governing body.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Aren't there "no photographing"-allowed signs on some nude beaches?
Are they private property, anyway? Does Google photograph on private property?

Also – does Google respect the "no photographing" signs?

On another side-note, I wonder if blurring the face would still allow people to recognize a person by the clothes they wear.

If the blurring of faces is done nicely, it might not distract much from the usefulness of the service.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Philipp wrote:
> I wonder if blurring the face would still allow people
> to recognize a person by the clothes they wear.

Recently we had anonymized data released by AOL and Netflix. In both cases, people were able to data mine and establish the identities of the data subjects.

It will be the same with images. You blank out the face, and someone will be wearing distinctive clothing that "gives the game away". You blank out the license plates of the cars, and someone will drive a car that has a distinctive bumper sticker.

Someone else will correlate across multiple photos taken over multiple days, and work out that the "red car with the scratch on the right" must belong to Mrs Jones because it is only ever photographed between the driveway of her house and the workplace of Mrs Jones. And on Tuesday it had two people in it. The man's face was blurred, but he was clearly too skinny to be her husband...

If you disseminate photos, you can't avoid disseminating information. If you blur out some parts of photos, you disseminate less information, but you have to blur out everything if you don't want anyone to be able to make any deductions from it.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> but you have to blur out everything if you
> don't want anyone to be able to make any
> deductions from it.

... and sometimes even with blurring, or at least pixelation, people manage to get back some of the information... wonder how applicable this one will be to license plates:

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