Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Street View now covers more Scottish coastline (but where?)

Rocky coast

I don’t know where the email alert I should have received from Google about its most recent updates to Maps and Street View has been since March 7 (the date on the message) but it only arrived last night.

As I have lamented before, while Google used to have someone prepare an overlay that showed where on Google Earth the latest imagery updates were applied, this stopped a while ago, and has not returned, so I can’t point at specifics, which I like to do, both for my own information, and to make it easier for those who were interested to find their area if it was included.

So, all I can say is that the latest alert regarding updated Street View imagery (and this alert was about Street View, as opposed to the more general Aerial or Satellite View), is that it applied to some areas of Scottish coastline… and some UK cities, specifically:

In the UK we’re refreshing some imagery in major cities like London, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff, as well as filling in some of the gaps where we had no Street View coverage. For example, we’ve added brand new images to parts of the Scottish coastline, in pockets of East Anglia and parts of South Wales.

There’s also the mention in there of Glasgow having update imagery in Street View, and I think I actually saw this before reading the email.

For those who know the city, if you use Street View to head up York Street from the river, and cross Argyle Street, then you will see the wall on your right magically transformed from an abandoned piece of waste into a series of large artistic murals as caught in 2012. To see the old wall, just cross over to West Campbell Street, and look back to see 2008:

Google views abandoned Fukushima

I just happen to be looking at this exploration – Urban Exploration? – at the moment, so pass on the link since I am mentioning Street View.

Google Maps, working with Namie-machi mayor Tamotsu Baba, drove Google Street View cars through the abandoned town this month. In a blog post, Baba explained why: “Many of the displaced townspeople have asked to see the current state of their city, and there are surely many people around the world who want a better sense of how the nuclear incident affected surrounding communities.”

Click here to go to the scene

The are still boats lying inland, and the citizens are not allowed to return to their homes.

It’s hard to comment from a distance (and this is on the opposite side of the World) but I think I am reasonably safe in saying they could go home today were it not for the fear spread by radiophobia. As far as I know, there was no fallout from Fukushima, only the release of radioactive gasses at the time of the earthquake and tsunami that did the damage. More people were actually harmed and died from that than anything that happened at the nuclear power stations, but it is still the nuclear power station that are being pointed at as the villains of the story.

There were no casualties caused by radiation exposure, approximately 25,000 died due to the earthquake and tsunami, and more than 200,000 were evacuated.

By March 2013, reports indicated barely detectable effects on the population’s lifetime from the disaster at the power station.

Lest I get misquoted, I am not saying there are no effects to be found, and it should not be forgotten that the sea will be suffering contamination as heavy elements are washed out from the damaged plant, but this does not go to the town, it goes to the sea, to the fish for example, so these are probably not the best diet for locals. Actually they’re very good for anyone, as they seem to have well over 200 time the safe limit of radiation.

You might want to read this before thinking I am mad suggesting that the Fukushima residents might just be allowed back into their homes:

The Psychology of Cancer Clusters : Fire in the Mind

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Maps | , , , | Leave a comment

Poke in the eye for English thugs

CameraI referred to the Thugs of Broughton back in April, when a group of villagers were whipped up into a mob by one ringleader who took exception to Google’s Street View camera car driving along the public road and taking pictures. He led them to surround the car and forced the driver to turn around and leave, rather than risk further provocation, and escalating the confrontation.

Their justification for this intimidation was the protection of their property,  and the ringleader, one Paul Jacobs who formed the posse to surround the car driver stated that the had been three burglaries there in the last six weeks (and without the help of Street View too!), stating: “If our houses are plastered all over Google, it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike”.

In reality, it would seem that fat from causing crime, Street View is being used to solve it, and it has been reported that two street robbers were apprehended thanks to Google Street View imagery in the Netherlands.

Last September a 14-year-old boy was robbed in Groningen. In March, the boy was looking at Street View and realised that imagery had been recorded just before the robbery took place, and showed the two men. He applied to Google for the uncensored imagery, and Google obliged. Police were subsequently able to identify both of the muggers.

There are other instances of such occurrences, but the stories are anecdotal, and so far at least, no-one sent me links to online sources to verify the tales, so I’m not including them.

In any case, it’s my opinion that while such cases will certainly exist, they will be the exception.

Despite the fact that many people still seem to hold the mistaken belief that Street View is some sort of live image that can be homed in on like some sort of magic or mystical global CCTV, the reality is that they images are archival stills, and record only a past moment in time. This means that unless some incident happened to take place at the moment the image was being recorded, there’s no way Street View can be “rewound” to replay some past moment in time.

Historic records

On a more positive note, Google has begun to receive requests from the victims of major disasters that have taken place since Street View images began being recorded.

In many cases, the Street View images represent the only complete record of some of these communities, destroyed by events such as floods and earthquakes. Google has responded by looking at ways of preserving these images for future reference, presumably much in the same way as can already be found in Google Earth, where a timeline of the available satellite imagery can be referred to, and changes to the terrain viewed over the years (when such material is available) can be seen.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Maps | , , | Leave a comment

Street View blurring technology has its uses

Following the shock revelation to some that I was Glad I’ve never financed KFC, after the American fast food giant tried to bully a Carnoustie pizzeria owner into removing items from her menu because the junk food chain thought it had the exclusive right to the words Family Feast – an action it had already failed to enforce in England a couple of years earlier (so had little or no chance of succeeding, having set its own precedent, but try telling a bully to change its ways) – the Titanic Pizza Co followed its namesake, and I got to write Titanic Pizza sinks Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Wandering around the web, I found that Google’s Street View was none to chuffed by good old Colonel Saunder’s countenance, and the wise, automated face blurring technology incorporated into the system had recognised his face adorning the KFC sign above the slop shop in King Street, Hammersmith, and blurred it in an attempt to protect our eyes, if not our stomachs.

Colonel Sanders blurred KFC sign in Street View

Colonel Sanders blurred KFC sign in Street View

The view above is a capture, just in case the Colonel sends out the legal bullies to threaten Google and force removal of the blurring.

The view below comes from Street View, so you can see the current view of this frame, and see if the blurring remains, or is removed at some point. You can also use it to wander along King Street, where you’ll discover that, unfortunately, this was the only frame wherethe Colonel’s leering face was actually obscured. Everywhere else, he’s looking down on his prey.

Ah well, as they say, nothing’s perfect.It might have treated the whole sign like a registration number plate, and blurred the whole thing for us.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Maps | , , , , | 2 Comments

Google Street View ICO press release

CameraThe full detail of the Information Commissioner’s Office ruling that Google Street View does not contravene the Data Protection Act doesn’t seem to be available yet, but the press release is.

While the ruling was really a foregone conclusion (Privacy International’s call for Street View to be taken down was foolish, with Street View operating not only throughout Europe, but across the world, closing it down in Britain was never going to happen – the government could simply not be seen doing such a thing while condemning oppressive states), its wording raises some interesting new concerns..

The ICO says it took a “pragmatic and common sense” position, noting that there is no law against taking pictures of people in the street as long as the photographer is not harassing anyone, a general principle which allows you or I to do what we like in a public place so long as it harms nobody else (a frequent objection to the ID card is that it infringes thi prnciple). One problem that can arise is the definition of a public place, as this could be argued by some to vary dependent on circumstances. Thanks to the bane of today that is the “mock royalty” of celebrity, places like beaches or restaurants might or might not be deemed public when photographs are being taken, however, there seem little doubt that the public highway, road, street, or pavement is a fairly safe option.

Maybe (it’s not a safe option), as we’ve already seen a case reported where the police appear to have forced innocent tourists to delete their holiday snaps, and a photographer in Edinburgh was fined for taking pictures of someone throwing up outside a bar. Taking a photograph is becoming a risky business, even if you aren’t Google.

Less secure are areas such as that within the curtledge of a property, on privately owned property – such as someone’s home – or on the road or driveway belonging to such a property. This can be easy to make a mistake on, and can cause problems if unwittingly strayed on to when taking pictures which later appear in public.

Within the ICO release is wording which concerns those of us who have ever been responsible for preparing, or working to, enforceable procedural documentation. In the release, the ICO’s senior data protection practice manager David Evans says “Any images of people’s faces or number plates should be blurred.” While the ICO may welcome the decision to blur faces and number plates, the use of the word “should” does not seem to have any immediately justifiable reason for its use in this case. When such a word is used, the writer should be able to point to regulatory or controlling document or standard that dicates its use. In this case, the justification is not immediatley apparent.

Similarly, the release also stated “Google must respond quickly to deletion requests and complaints as it is doing at the moment. We will be watching closely to make sure this continues to be achieved in practice.” The same question applies in the case of the use of the word “must”.

These questions should not be read as suggestions that Google be allowed to operate Street View without question or control, it still has to be held to account, and I would be among the first to call for them to be called to account and their imagery summarily withdrawn in cases where the drivers of their camera cars exceed their freedom to operate in public places. This has happened when they have driven along private roads and into private driveways, but this is a training and education issue between Google and its employees, not an issue arising from Street View.

This brings us back round to the matter of the Thugs of Broughton. A mob has no right to impede the progress of a Street View car on the public highway. Those in the mob, and those in the car share the freedom and liberty to carry on with their activities provided they remain within the law. Similarly both deserve the protection of the law should either exceed their rights. Provided the pics remain in the street, then the mob has no place. However, if the cameras are ever pointed inside people’s homes, then the mob has the right to block them – and no more – and report them to the appropriate authority.

More detailed analysis

You can read a more detailed analysis that includes the failed (and frankly frivolous) Privacy International case which attempted to have Street View taken down here:

Information Commissioner contacted 74 times over Street View concerns

Within that report, the ICO was not able to break down those concerns before publication, however these may be published later. If so, they may include details of what locations they specifically referred to, and maybe even what was shown at those locatins.

If so, I may be busy as that could mean making up to 74 posts in here, complete with embedded Stret View views, in order to show those particularly interesting (and secret)  locations in detail, if the imagery is available.

April 26, 2009 Posted by | Maps | , | 1 Comment

Over cautious Google?

This image is no longer availableBack at the launch of Google’s Street View, I had the opportunity to test their Report a problem option. The subject was unimportant, but comprised a registration plate that had been missed by the automated blurring. There was good reason, due to the location and angle of the plate, but it was still clearly visible thanks to its position.

Back then, I observed that not only was the registration plate blurred (in adjacent views), but they had gone a step too far and removed the images as well, and the graphic shown to the right appeared instead – this was not what I had asked for, nor expected as I had clearly marked and reported the visible registration using their provided reporting tool.

With the news that the UK’s Information Commissioner had sent Privacy International away with a flea in its ear, I decided to have a look at the location concerned and see how it looked some weeks after the images had been removed. Maybe they would have blurred the registration and restored the edited image.

Disappointingly, the image had been returned to Street View unedited, and complete with the registration number in plain view. This was rather embarrassing as I had previously been using the location as an example of Google’s response to a concern, unaware that it had been restored.

I re-registered the problem, including a description of the registration plate, and requesting it be blurred, but that the images not be removed.

While the automated acknowledgement was almost immediate, the result was still to remove the image (and others beside it!) rather than simply blur the registration plate that I had clearly identified in the reporting form.

I don’t really see what their problem is, as the registrations on neighbouring vehicles have been successfully blurred without the need to resort to removing the whole image containing them.

I don’t know if they are being ultra-cautious in the cases where a problem is reported, or for some technical reason just can’t apply the blur as requested, however that still wouldn’t explain why the images that were initially removed were restored.

We’ll give it another 4-6 weeks and revisit the view at the start of June to see what it looks like then, if it’s the same, blurred, or has the original image mysteriously restored again.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Maps | , , | Leave a comment

I told you so: All clear for Google Street View

Months ago I said that Privacy International was wasting time (and presumably money) when it announced its intention to go after Google’s Street View, and have it taken down, and should concentrate on something really evil like ID Cards and the National Identity Database.

Today, the UK’s Information Commissioner has ruled that while Google’s Street View technology carries a small risk of privacy invasion, it should not be stopped.

Gratuitous Google Street View view follows, just for the sake of it:

A spokesman for Google said it was pleased with the Information Commissioner’s decision, adding “We recognise that a small minority of people may not wish their house to be included in the service which is why we have created easy to use removals tools”.

David Evans, the Information Commission’s senior data protection practice manager, compared being captured by the service to passers-by filmed on TV news camera, saying “It would not be in the public interest to ‘turn the digital clock back’, in the same way, there is no law against anyone taking pictures of people in the street as long as the person using the camera is not harassing people.”

An interesting reference to harassment…

The icing on the cake would be see another news item about the Thugs of Broughton being held to account for their actions now, after carrying out what amounted to a mob assault on a Google camera car driver, but you don’t always get justice.

David Evans continued “In a world where many people Tweet, Facebook and blog, it is important to take a commonsense approach towards Street View and the relatively limited privacy intrusion it may cause. Google should continue to routinely blur images of people’s faces and car number plates.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office said it would continue to monitor the service.

I don’t know what personal agenda Dr Ian Brown, a privacy expert at the Oxford Internet Institute, has when he said: “The phrase ‘small risk of privacy detriment’ betrays the slightly wrong mindset at the Information Commissioner’s office as they are having to adopt a reactive approach when it’s far too late to really do anything about it. They should have been involved much earlier, because Google could – and should – have done a much better job and the Information Commissioner needs to be involved at a much earlier stage; in other words, when it is being designed and not finished.”

Unless someone is lying, the Information Commissioner was consulted before the system came into operation.

He added: “I’m not saying Street View is evil and should be taken down, but it shouldn’t be up to individuals to spot breaches of privacy and get them taken down. So far, the breaches have just been embarrassing – someone being sick, someone else leaving a sex shop – but it’s possible someone could find themselves being unfairly divorced because an innocent image could be interpreted wrongly.”

What does he expect Google to do, develop ESP? How are they to know when someone considers their privacy to have been breached? There is no standard definition, and the term seems to be quite flexible in practice, meaning something different depending on whether you are a nobody, or a celebrity, or rich.

The antis seem to have only the vomiting and the sex shop story to trot out as reasons against Street View, and neither really holds any water, one being unfortunate and unplanned if it takes place in public, especially if just at the fraction of a second a photograph takes to record, the other being the choice of individual, and carried out in publicly accessible space, even if it is hidden under some brown paper, and something they appear to be ashamed of if they are seen doing it.

Here’s a stunningly simple piece of advice: if you don’t want to be seen coming out of a sex shop – don’t go in! It’s a guaranteed method, and stops you wasting my enjoyment of Street View, and its use for research.

Is Dr Ian Brown really so naive as to think people would divorce purely on the basis of a single shot captured in Google Street View?

If a marriage is that far down the tubes, then those concerned will already be well on the way to divorce for much more concrete reasons than an old pic from months or even years ago that shows up in Street View.

Maybe instead of chasing the soft and high profile target of Google, the privacy campaigners will take up the case of anonymous CCTV cameras (which they would have to do some research to identify the owners) pointing at peoples homes, and with no apparent control of what they look at, who looks at it, what is recorded, what is stored, and for how long.

Wonder if it’s worth suggesting we might have to go through all this nonsense again when Microsoft get round to releasing their version?

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Maps | , | Leave a comment

Google Earth Street View and Longside without clouds

Google Earth Street View globes

Street View globes

For my sins, I spend little time playing with Google Earth. The main reasons are probably down to having more needs for online mapping than the facilities offered by Google Earth, they are two distinct products, but it is a processor and memory hungry application that the current hardware just can’t support efficiently, and just grinds to a halt after a few minutes use.

However, I do take the hit every now and then, if only to keep my Google Earth install up to date, and this time I found more than the ocean views I had been expecting – you can now dive into the water and find underwater locations – when I noticed that there was now a Street View layer.

Expecting to see much the same as is found in Google maps when Street View is activated, I decided to have a look at the home location and see how things compared. Unfortunately, the creation of this layer is clearly still work-in-progress, and even though they have some of the smaller street around me loaded, my own is missing at present.

A wander into those streets brought a most interesting sight into view. Normally, the Street View capture points are identified by little camera icons, but as you get down to the street level, these change into little 3-dimensional globes, with the individual views mapped onto their surfaces. It all quite fascinating and novel to see, and you can use the navigation controls to fly into any selected globe, which then opens out into a navigable view of the selected location.

The Thugs of Broughton will be spinning in their affluent flower beds at the very thought of an even better Street View!

It’s well worth a look and a play, especially if you have a half-decent computer and can have it work in real-time, and not have to suffer the delays and sounds of a hard drive trying to commit suicide as it tries to make up for the lack of speed and memory of an ageing  system, coping admirably, but not happy.

Improved Scottish views

As an aside, I happened to take a spin up to Longside, the site of RNAS Longside, a wartime naval air station. This had caught my eye as it had the Street View icons and view available, but this was not the main reason.

One of the donwnsides of Google’s current mapping, or rather aerial imagery, is that the entire northeast corner of Scotland is shrouded in cloud, and has been for years. I think it was once clear, way back at the start, but then turned white. I don’t even know if it’s covered by real cloud, as the ground seems to be visible through it if examined closely, more as if it had been hidden behind an opaque setting for some reason, rather than obscured by natural cloud cover, as can be found at other locations. I have complained, and even got a sorry from them, but no views in the mapping service.

What I did find was that Google Earth now has clear trench cutting through the northeastern cloud cover, passing through Longside and, at last, providing a clear view of the disused Longside airfield and its runways to the east of the original air station, and all the ground to the left and right, or east and west to be a bit more accurate.

While the aerial views of Google maps now follow the Google Earth views fairly closely, this has yet to make its way into the system (Update: It shows just fine, but you have to zoom in close – under the cloud as it were), however it will appear at some point, and we can only hope the clear trench through the northeastern cloud in Google Earth means that the rest of the will follow.. sometime… soon… maybe… ?

April 13, 2009 Posted by | Maps | , , | 5 Comments

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

And now… Ultra Secret England

Nuns with gunsYou will no doubt have noticed all the wailing and moaning about Google’s Street View from the various skivers that might have been caught sneaking the odd unauthorised smoking break outside the work, or others who might perchance have caught in the right car but in the wrong place and with wrong partner.

Given the amount of hysteria the media seems keen to whip up over this feature, or rather just keeps on repeating the same story time after time, you might be forgiven for wondering what’s happened to all the people who like to say of CCTV and surveillance systems: “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear”. You’d think they would be the firsdt out in the streets cheering at everything being visible online.

With all the supposed anti-Street View stories circulating, you might be forgiven for thinking there are a lot of people out there with a lot to hide and a lot to fear.

None more so it seems than the Buckinghamshire village of Broughton, which has made the news with its opinion of being seen on Street View.

So fearful are the residents – they say of being burgled if their village appears on Street View (they must all read that fine publication, The Daily Mail, which promotes this idea, daft as it is) – that they ran out of their houses, banged on one another’s doors, and formed a mob to intimidate the driver of the Google camera car, force it to turn around and leave the village.

The ringleader, one Paul Jacobs, formed a posse to surround the car driver.

Jacobs said there had been three burglaries in the last six weeks (and without the help of Street View too!), “If our houses are plastered all over Google, it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike”.

I’m trying to follow the logic, but there’s clearly something wrong with my brain, as it can’t quote work out how having an old, out of date photograph of a publicly visible place that anyone (if not spotted and surrounded by a posse) can take a current, new photograph of at any time, translates into an invitation for criminals.

The only criminal thing I see here is a mob attacking, or at least intimidating or threatening a driver in a car, to the extent they felt the need to leave a public place.

I hope this link lead to some nice, detailed pics of the correct Broughton, I don’t know the place, and I won’t be daring to visit. There seems to be quite a few places with the same name, but this one lies near Buckingham.

There seems to be something marked as HM Young Offenders Institution on the map, a little way to the northwest.

Bet they don’t like that in Broughton.

Update

Apparently the thugs at Broughton were interviewed by BBC TV the day after the news item was published, but I was out and missed it.

Like most bullies, they haven’t really thought things through, and while they seem to be most upset by the possibility of Google Street View showing an old and out of date image taken from the street, which they think invites criminal to strike, they are perfectly happy – and said so on camera – for estate agents to publish current photographs and details of properties for sale there.

Now forgive me for not being a professional criminal (maybe), but if I was researching a village with the intention of cherry-picking the best properties to make a withdrawal from, what would I prefer to use?

Google Street View – offering relatively poor quality, old pictures of streets I could walk down and study freely, and take detailed photographs of for myself, zooming in on any security features I was interested in.

Estate agents details – offering current photographs of properties for sale, detailing their interior, number of rooms, layout, outbuildings, gardens and access. Most modern estate agents also provide detailed photographs of the interior to show off the rooms, and these show all the owner’s possessions, collections, audio and visual equipment, and presence of any alarm sensors in the rooms. The fact that the property is for sale also signifies that it may be lying empty, and just opened for viewing.

Not only that, the property list is constantly being updated, sold properties are removed, and new ones added.

Yes, I know what I’d worry about if given the choice of Google Street View, or an estate agent advertising properties for sale.

April 3, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , | 1 Comment

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March 24, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Enter your password to view comments.

Google Street View – take care with concerns

nolongeravailableAs I mentioned in an earlier post, since Google’s Street View consists of public photos taken in public places, the only people who have anything to fear at those involved in something sneaky, and this has proven to be the case with the news that one image removed showed a a man emerging from Soho sex shop, and another throwing his guts up outside a London pub.

This reminds me of the problem with people taking photographs in public nowadays, with just taking a photograph becoming a legal issue after a man was fined for taking a similar picture of a woman outside a bar in Edinburgh, and the possibility that just taking your next photograph could be a crime.

No tales yet of images and registration numbers of cars that show the odd office affair in progress, but those sneaking a cigarette outside the work seem to popular captures in the background. Reminds of one of the displays about the Clyde shipyards which can be seen in Kelvingrove museum. This contains an account of one foreman who had no interest in hiring any man that turned up at the yard smoking a pipe – and rejected them on the basis that compared to a non-smoker, the pipe smoker would spend his working day preparing his tobacco, reaming out his pipe, packing it with tobacco, and trying to light it. Somewhere in between that, he might actually do some work – until his pipe went out and he started the process all over again in an attempt to restart it.

As you should be aware by now, there is a link at bottom left of every Street View scene which allows anyone to “Report a concern”.

There doesn’t seem to be any onus of proof on the part of the reporter, and Google don’t seem to do any background checks. I find that more worrying than any supposed issues of privacy.

I gave the service a try to see if it worked, and how long it took – it does, and it’s quick.

I’d been wandering around various Street View areas, and happened to spot one of my own cars. Closing in on the view, I noticed that unlike other cars in the same street, the registration number had not been fuzzied, so I thought I’d give the reporting option a try and ask for the number to fuzzied.

Within a few hours a response had been received acknowledging the report, but with no indication as to any action taken.

The next day, I was still wondering if Google would confirm action, or request any further details, but when nothing arrived I decded to have a look at the street concerned, and all looked as it had before, until I arrived at the frame concerned. Rather than fuzzy the plate – as I had requested – Google had simply removed the whole scene, and where it had once shown the surrounding area there was just a an empty black hole, with the comforting words “This image is no longer available“.

While it proves the system works, to a degree, I rather wish I hadn’t raised the report now, as the whole scene has now been lost. It may only be one in millions, but all I’d asked for was a bit of fuzz on a registration plate, not removal of the whole scene, which may have been wanted by the local people who lived there, and to whom I apologise. I’d be a bit miffed if my house suddenly disappeared from the system for no apparent reason.

March 20, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 4 Comments

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