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Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

Posted April 10, 2009 12:00 AM by Sharkles

This is part two in this series. Part 1 can be found here.

Since its UK launch on March 20, Google Street View has been treated as an invading army by some British citizens. Some have complained that this feature of Google Maps and Google Earth has taken revealing images of private residences.

For example, a youth was captured puking in the street. A husband who was having an affair was caught with his car parked outside another woman's resident at a time when he had told his wife that he was "away on business".

True to its word, Google has since taken the offended images down. "We've got millions of images, so the percentage removed was very small," adds Google's Laura Scott.

This Image Is No Longer Available

"The fact there are now gaps [in Street View] shows how responsive we are," Scott explains. In place of a removed photo, a black image is displayed with a message that "this image is no longer available". Still, the BBC points out that most images can be moved up or down a notch on the street – allowing the offending image to still be seen.

Many find the "image no longer available" screen to be inadequate protection for private citizens. Dr. Ian Brown of England's Oxford Internet Institute says that he's not surprised by the number of complaints about Google Street View. He believes that Google should have thought more carefully about how it designed this service and suggests taking the images twice, on different days, so that the offending images can been replaced.

A View From Upstate New York

When researching this topic, I saw an article that described Google Street View as "the local detective agency" – and it's true. The Internet continues to make it easy for people to find and track other people. Sometimes, such interest is innocent. But what if it's not?

Personally, if Google caught me walking to my car or apartment, I'd probably be fine with it. But, who knows what Google-mobile might catch you doing!

Do you have any good Google Street View stories? I'm sure there are some wild ones out there!

What do you think about this service?

  • Have you used Google Street View?
  • Do you like it? Do you think it's cool or creepy?
  • Do you know anyone captured by Google Street View?
  • Would you want to be on it, even with a blurred face?

Resources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7954596.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7952317.stm

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2330097.ece

http://news.cnet.com/cheating-husband-caught-on-google-street-view/?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20

http://news.cnet.com/google-street-view-bring-back-the-vomiting-brit/

Kate's Controversies home

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#1

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 3:53 AM

The puking kid, and the philandering husband, haven't got much moral high-ground to stand on (I'm gueesing the lid was p*****d). Maybe it's even prevented a few crimes.

On the other hand, I'd get a smack in the gob if I wondered around filming strangers, and quite probably I'd get prosecuted. Google is a commercial organization. They may only be interested in filming buildings, but it won't be long before marketing people want to analyze where crowds are, where they're headed at different times of day etc. Google arguably falls foul of UK data protection law (re electronic storing of personal data. An image of an individuals whereabouts is personal data, even if the person is not named). The police routinely film crowd events, that's just as contentious, but are unlikely to stop doing so. Paradoxical.

It's the 21st century, and we're all tagged one way or another. Buy a wig/disguise of choice.

Here is the London Metropolitan Police ;

Dunno where that leaves Google. Yes we can, but subject to terms & conditions ?

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 9:17 AM

Hi Kris -

My wife and I, along with thousands of other innocent commuters using Interstate 87, are regularly videoed by the New York State police, as we go about our daily business, and the taping has increased recently.

Similar surveillance behavior creeped me out in Germany in '97, when a friend of mine there - a local - made me aware of a system - mounted underneath highway overpasses - that would automatically detect speed, take a picture, and send a ticket to one's home address.

At the time, I figured the Germans were just more tolerant to intrusions to their privacy - and I chalked this up as a cultural difference. After all, compared to border guards boarding trains bound for West Berlin (I personally witnessed this in 1985), isn't an overhead camera taking a picture of a speeding car just a minor intrusion?

Here in Upstate, the police park in the u-turn "island" at the center of the highway, looking for speeders. In Google's defense, at least they're acting transparently - as far as I can tell - with their videotaping efforts. What the NYS police does with their video is a little more secretive - and scary from my perspective.

The British reaction to Google's effort is a little surprising to me, considering how tolerant the public there is to the amount of anti-terrorism surveillance going on in cities like London.

My thoughts.

- Larry

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 10:35 AM

Always good to hear perspective from other places, Larry.

Personally I don't mind Police surveillance. We've had a lot of CCTV for a long time, and I've yet to hear of anyone being troubled by it who hasn't committed an offence. If anything, the equipment sould be improved ; After a crime, it's not uncommon to hear that the image wasn't good enough quality, cameras were pointing the wrong way etc.

Maybe camera feed should be held by an independant body - after the recent demonstrations in London, in which a seemingly innocent guy was attacked by Police, it's curious that no official footage emerged. Had it not been for reporters and unofficail footage, the matter might not be recieving the attention it is. CCTV could/should be used to ensure correct behaviour by Police as well as preventing crime.

Many Brits get manic over speed camera's. Where they are being used to catch people breaking a speed limit, their isn't any rational argument against them. The fact that camera's are not always clearly indicated is a spuriouis argument. Those against, say that 'hidden camera's are used to entrap people and raise money. Rubbish. Most roads have clear speed limits, and it's not a drivers perogative to endanger other peoples lives.

Not that many people are aware of the google camera vans (they aren't in all areas, just some major cities). Nobody I've spoken to is concerned by them, mainly because we live in a forest of surveillance. The story would probably be different if the vans had 'Police' marked on the side. Again, there's no major reasion to argue, given that we have so many static camera's and many Police vehicles (marked and unmarked) have camera's hidden at the front.

Increasing state surveillance is inevitable. Having video/picture that is not target-specific held by an independent body is one way to keep it in check. With companies like Google, it's hard to know where recordings will end up, and what they may be used for. There don't seem to be many ground rules for how they operate. I could have my own security camera pointing at my own front door, but it would be an offence for me to point it along the road. The Google vans are operating in a grey area of privacy law. I have no problem with Google using vans to creat a virtual tour, but it seems to set a precedent. If Google can tour the streest with cameras, what justification is there for stopping any other company - "Spouce Tracker Ltd", "Vigilantes 'R' Us".

There may be legislation in place with regard to google, but I haven't read any. That possibly refelcts the fact that people aren't too concerned, so the media don't cover the issue. It doesn't unduly bother me that we have Google vans, or the official surveillance that we do, but I would qualify that by adding "yet". When "yet" comes, it may be impossible to put the horse back in the stable.

That must have been a ramble and a half - the spell checker gave up !

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#4
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Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 9:34 AM

Kris, GA. After reading your comment this morning I was going through the Eng. news feeds and saw a few other articles talking about the London police and some of the other advertisement-type materials they're using. Some of them are pretty crazy!

I'm going to have to keep following the story - not only am I interested in privacy stuff, but London/UK is the one place in the world I've always wanted to visit. Really interesting story there though, so thanks!

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#6
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Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 11:04 AM

Hi Sharkles - thanks to you for kicking it off !

Yeah, there are some odd things happen with 'The Met', as we call our cops in London (not strictly true - there are various types of Police working there).

Hope you get to London one day, there's loads of stuff to see/do. There's still loads I've never seen. Like most big cities, it woud take a lifetime to see all the good bits. At least your visit would get recorded for posterity, even if you didn't know it ! Some of the 'don't take pictures' signs look like somebody is having a joke - how on Earth do you go to a big city and not capture a picture of something you shouldn't ? The police concern is understandable, but I doubt terrorists go around with a big sign identifying themselves. It's like asking people to identify somebody who might be a shoplifter just by the way they're dressed ! Best bet is to ignore it, and go about your innocent fun (though not like that girl, "Star", who triggered an alert at an American Airport some time ago )

I'll keep my eye open for anything related to Google vans. I'm almost disapointed that I haven't yet seen one

That's a terible picture, but the sign at the top of the lamp-post is a notice about the fine for letting dogs foul the pavement (it varies from £50 to £1000)!

That's an equally bad picture of temporary traffic monitoring equipment - Camera at top of lamp-post (different one).

I'm starting to think the non-functioning spell checker is a futile attempt by intelligence services to stop me !

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#13
In reply to #4

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

05/07/2009 6:27 AM

<...London/UK is the one place in the world I've always wanted to visit...>

As any guide book to the city will reveal, it's a vibrant place with plenty to see and do. One of the errors many make is to allow too little time to see everything.

Another error is to take London as being a representative sample of the UK. It isn't. There's loads of other places: there are over 40 tourist attactions in the county of Essex alone, for example.

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#14
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Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

05/07/2009 8:35 AM

I wasn't trying to over generalize, but I do hope to one day be able to travel to and around the UK - although London would likely be one of my first spots (not entirely sure where my London-fascination came from). My mom had a friend from across the pond when I was a little girl and she always had the best stories (and accent) and I thought it all sounded very beautiful and exciting.

Unfortunately, all my money currently goes to my pursuit of a Master's degree, so the trip wouldn't be for awhile. Thanks for the info though - I'll likely spend my lunch hour reading and daydreaming about it!

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#2

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 9:01 AM

When used properly, Google Street View can be an amazing tool to find locations that you have never been to. When used improperly, I could see more houses being burglarized or kids being kidnapped. I believe that images portraying anything other than the landscape/houses is sufficient for Google Street View to function properly and to serve its' purpose.

I think that for how popular this online function is, they can take more pictures and make sure that they don't capture people. I remember reading an article about people getting caught coming out of strip clubs. While these people may have deserved getting broken up with, I don't think that Google Street View should have been the tool that facilitated that action. People are not necessary in Google Street View to be effective!

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#7

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 1:32 PM

In this day and age you should expect zero privacy when not inside your own house.

It's not like people are unaware of satellite capabilities. People just figure, there are bigger fish to fry.

Maybe with this little scare people are realizing that yes, big brother is watching. People are giving Google backlash over this when I'm sure Google's intentions are in the right place.

I trust the Government and Police a lot less than I trust Google. Google's just trying to make some money, as opposed to trying to control our actions and thoughts.

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#8

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/10/2009 5:52 PM

We have had Google street view in th US for quite some time now. Everything I have seen on it when people were involved hav been blurred out. Along witht he liscense plates of cars and the windows of cars have been darkened as well so the occupants are not seen.

What is really helpful about it though is when you are traveling to an area you are not familiar with. It is a great help to know what the surroundings look like when you are trying to find a specific location.

I am sure that any complaints that are had over there will be corrected as they have done so here. It does take a bit of time for them to get it all sorted but once it is up and running fully I am sure you will be able to appreciate the usefulness of it over there.

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#9

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/11/2009 6:48 AM

I think it is out of order.
In my artists personna I've been tempted to photograph that pretty girl that works in Sainsburies, or those schoolgirls from the school over the road.
Can you see the problem with this?
Of course if I actually do want to draw/photograph/paint a woman I make sure I ask permission (and don't tell Mrs Cat)
Here's a sketch of the secretaries where I used to work with .

Del

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Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/11/2009 7:13 AM

Nice !

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#11

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/12/2009 9:06 PM

Damn, so i cannot poke my nose anumore when i am on the street?

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#12

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

04/13/2009 11:33 AM

I think one of the biggest concerns of all the surveillence is, how many times have we been caught picking our nose when we thought no one was looking?

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#15

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

05/14/2009 1:15 PM

The last time I moved I used Google Street View. When I was searching for a new residence, it was convenient to be able to take my list of potentials, type them into google, and actually see what they look like, what type of neighborhood they were in, parking, etc etc. It sure saved me a few $ and a bunch of time, as the alternative would have been driving around to each house, all day. All in all, I think it's a convenient service. If I end up on one of their photos, in a less than flattering manner, I'll be ok. Lets all try and keep our heads about us, and exercise a bit of good judgement, and common sense.

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#16

Re: Look Out for Google Street View (Part 2)

08/26/2009 1:02 PM

I think the screen resolution is not enough for Google Earth to be a threat. The images were taken a few months ago (not real time). If you didn't do anything wrong, why are you afraid for others to see?

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