Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Google Street View privacy actions rebound

CameraI mentioned the thugs from the (English) village of Broughton in And now… Ultra Secret England, which was also reported in The Timesonline casino. That article carries a quotation from the thug at the head of the mob which harangued the driver of the Google camera car, Paul Jacobs,who said, “My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent”.

Well Mr Jacobs, in this country, provided it can be seen and photographed from a public road, anybody dare, and if it wasn’t for the matter of some 400 miles, you can bet I’d be down there every day taking a photograph, purely on principle.

Actually, I would deliberately leave the batteries and memory card at home, and merely point the camera every day, just for the fun of seeing how paranoid he was, and how long he would play the game, until he assaulted me. He may have a problem seeing me though, as I have X12 zoom with vibration reduction, and sufficient quality to use up to x4 digital processing, in camera, or by post-processing – that’s up t0 x48 zoom. And if I was a potential burglar, I’d be using it to keep out of sight.

Google can get it wrong of course, and private roads are a hazard. There are many claimed around me by residents who like to think that they (like Paul Jacobs) live in an affluent area, and are that little bit better than the rest of us, and deserve special treatment – and, I suspect, demand an extra few thousand on the selling price of their more desirable homes as a result – and place their own signs on the roads with dire warnings to anyone that dare approach their Private Road.

While this can provide the homeowner with a useful tool to deploy if a camera car does mistakenly wander into their little empire, and has the bonus of a potential financial settlement in their favour – $25,000 is being claimed in once case – it does have the tiny disadvantage of guaranteeing that their privacy comes to an end.

In February, almost a year after they sued Google for including their home in StreetView, the US District Court has dismissed a lawsuit that Aaron and Christine Boring had brought against Google.

The images are now spread around the internet, in various reports.

As expected, this lawsuit did two things:

  • Showed even more people their house (which they claim has lowered the value — apparently the housing market crash didn’t have any effect on them).
  • Given then $0 as a result.

More details can be found on Mashable.

I’m surprised at part of this result, but point out that is an Amercan court ruling, and they may treat the incursion of the camera car on a private road differently by comparison to a UK court. I have close experience of the problems that can arise from taking photographs when on private, rather than public, land, even inadvertently. While this might only have resulted in a threatening lawyer’s letter, or a few words with the police in the days of film photography, it’s somewhere you really don’t want to venture today, with digital photpgraphy. You may find all your computers and related equipment confiscated as a result. Whether or not they can spread their net so far in such a case is unclear, but when they ask to have a word with you, and that possibility is raised within those words, the desire to test its voracity is muted to say the least.

Google’s view on the matter is that, unfortunately, “complete privacy does not exist” due to satellite imagery – which is not unique to Google, and deployed across the internet by many others –  which doesn’t really care about “private road” signs. Google does, however, remove images from the service if you ask them nicely.

I think the last aspect makes the behaviour of the Thugs of Broughton’s all the more deplorable and undefendable.

There is an easy way to have an image removed, and as yet, no reports of Google refusing to comply.

I’ve tried it myself, and there were no problems. They provide the tools to identify the subject, and not only carried out the edit I requested, but extended into the surrounding area, to a much greater extent than I really wanted.

I wonder if they have a restoration procedure?

There was a reminder in the mapping blogs this week that Microsoft has its rival to Street View under preparation.

I wonder what sort of lawsuits we can expect when that goes live, since one could almost be forgiven for thinking that some people think lawsuit is spelt in the same way as Microsoft.


April 11, 2009 - Posted by | Civilian | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Well said Apollo, they would be very upset if I was flying over and added them to my website. You can look at a lot of places both public and private . I often record large homes with a history because i know that many will never be able to drive up the private roads for a look.Aerial photography gives a special point of view.


    Comment by Gary | April 11, 2009

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