If You're Going To Complain About Street View Invading Your Privacy, You Might Want To Check Out What Your Government Is Doing

from the we-showed-them! dept

The British government appears to be on a track to undermine its citizens' privacy by collecting more and more information about their online behavior, but some villagers there recently took a stand against a far more evil menace: Google Street View. As one of the Street View vehicles turned down a street in the village of Broughton, a guy took exception, riled up his neighbors and they mobbed the vehicle (via CNet), forcing it into a hasty retreat. While the government goes on forcing ISPs to retain customer data like email, Street View seems to be attracting much more public ire. The main rabblerouser in this most recent case says he's concerned that Street View is invading his privacy and "facilitating crime" by putting pictures of his and his neighbors' houses online, echoing earlier calls that Google Maps facilitates terrorist attacks. The fact remains that Street View doesn't show a would-be thief anything they couldn't find out by walking or driving down the same road; in fact it seems a little unreasonable to think that any decent criminal would rely solely on reconnaissance from Street View when casing a target. The privacy uproar over Street View in the UK seems a little misplaced when the British government is taking much more invasive, and potentially much more harmful, steps to infringe the privacy of its citizens.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:14am

    "The privacy uproar over Street View in the UK seems a little misplaced when the British government is taking much more invasive, and potentially much more harmful, steps to infringe the privacy of its citizens."

    Carlo, your assignment is incomplete. If you are going to raise a point, at least explain it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Ima Fish, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:19am

      Re:

      Google Streets takes pictures of public activities. While the British government wants to be invasive by making copies of all private emails and private internet usage.

      In fact, I don't even understand how taking a picture of something in public could be invasive. Unless the photographer was ramming a camera up a woman's skirt.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:33am

      Re:

      Well then Harold, since you seem to have missed the links in the articles, let me point them out to you. They're the blue colored words that link to tech dirt articles discussing the British government's attempts to monitor peoples online behavior, facebook friends, etc. etc. There, that should just about do it.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 8:14am

      Re:

      Harold was a might troll
      everyday posts
      flames and buttered toast

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Yakko Warner, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 8:38am

        Re: Re:

        I think it would work better as a haiku:

        Weird Harold the troll
        Everyday he makes his posts
        Coherent as toast

        Might need a little work...

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      bob, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 9:46am

      Re: critical thinking or at least reading.

      While the government goes on forcing ISPs to retain customer data like email
      The info is above the ending comment.
      Of course you already know that all of the internet goes through a room at the AT&T office in san francisco and is data mined by the US Government.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Vastrightwing, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:18am

    Striking back at Google

    I think this is a reaction of people who know they can't stop the state from spying and abusing its denizens, so they stop the one entity they can: the Google van.

    If the state were to be accountable (never in my lifetime), then Google would not be an issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Ima Fish, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:22am

      Re: Striking back at Google

      "spying and abusing its denizens"

      Maybe you can explain how taking pictures of things completely in public can be considered either spying or abusive.

      A good rule of thumb to follow: if you want to protect your privacy, don't make yourself public.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Art, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re: Striking back at Google

        >>A good rule of thumb to follow: if you want to protect your privacy, don't make yourself public.

        Except that is intrusive in itself. Everyone has to make themselves public at times and there are some private things they can't avoid doing in public places.

        Also, changes in technology are making public many things that were once unquestionably private. The definition of public is expanding to formerly private forms of communication and to new ones as they come along. Also, public is expanding tremendously in physical area too.

        Once upon a time, public was what could be seen by another person with reasonable vision in line of sight or heard by someone with good hearing. Then came optics and later electronics and now satellites and the Internet. Now you can pick your nose on a seemingly deserted street and have it witnessed live by 10,000 people spread all across the globe.

        Go ahead and say "don't pick your nose then," but remember the slippery slope. 10 years from now CCD cameras may abound. They could be high resolution, they may record sound, they may support infared viewing or no telling what else, they may be pointing directly at your home, and they may be viewable to the world. Technology may advance to the point that the only private area you have is a specially constructed cage in the center of your home. 10 years from now someone may be on this web site arguing that if you want to protect your privacy you need to upgrade your cage.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:20am

    You actually used rabblerouser in your article? Really? Who does that anymore? Darn Ward, what will the Beaver think?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:42am

    Umm, when did online friends have anything to do with pictures taken? We are talking Google streetview, nothing more.

    It's important to think about, because while the UK has the highest number of CCTV cams for any country, they also have strict rules about automatically blocking and blurring out windows and "private" areas that might be seen by the cameras. It seems like a ton of money is spent to guard the privacy of it's citizens. It isn't like Google is blurring house windows, is it?

    Considering Carlo is an expert (and student, I think), you would think that the examples given would be (a) more relevant and on point, and (b) put in the area of his post that relates them to the accusation made.

    As I said, homework incomplete.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Mechwarrior, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:53am

      Re:

      Harold, you're missing a lot of information, all available on tech dirt.

      1) The UK intends to create a database of ALL communications of its citizens, including phone and email.

      2) The UK has poor data protection, which led to multiple times that private military documents ended up on trains in and in night clubs

      3) Nearly 30 percent of UK government databases may be illegal

      Are you telling me that its better to let the government have its way? Google isnt the problem here, not be a long shot. Which is why its ludicrous for citizens to be bent out of shape at Google, when their own government does even worse things to their privacy.

      Please tell that to your RIAA masters.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Weird Harold, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 7:43am

        Re: Re:

        Please tell that to your RIAA masters.

        screw you.

        Harold, you're missing a lot of information, all available on tech dirt.

        I'm not missing it, I am aware of it. But if Carlo is going to write an article and make a point of this sort of thing, why wouldn't he link to them so that people can understand the full meaning of the article WITHOUT having to be completely up to date about every post on techdirt? Mike over quotes and over links, and in this case, Carlo missed the boat entirely.

        However, it is clear on point: The UK government has been very careful about images that might show private areas, even on CCTV cameras. While they may have other issues, this is one area where they are actually leading the world, not behind.

        Personally, I don't have anything to hide from the government, so if they want to keep a log of my phonecalls, they are welcome to it.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 8:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Really nothing at all to hide? Hard to believe that but even if you believe its true I suggest read up on the fallacy that is the " don't have anything to hide" argument really is, I recommend this paper as a good starting point http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565 .

          Also I find it hard to understand how you can attack Carlos article for not providing enough links, while making comments like

          "The UK government has been very careful about images that might show private areas, even on CCTV cameras. While they may have other issues, this is one area where they are actually leading the world, not behind."

          without providing any evidence to back up such a claim, because I have never seen any, from what I have read here and on various other sites it seems to be quite the oppistae, note privacy international rate the UK as having an "endemic surveillance society" see http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-559597.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 9:59am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm not missing it, I am aware of it. But if Carlo is going to write an article and make a point of this sort of thing, why wouldn't he link to them so that people can understand the full meaning of the article WITHOUT having to be completely up to date about every post on techdirt? Mike over quotes and over links, and in this case, Carlo missed the boat entirely.

          WH, blue words? Those are called "links." If you put your mouse over them, you can go to other pages.

          Carlo's story is perfectly comprehendable to anyone over the age of 8.

          You also know that Carlo is considered one of the most respected analysts on a variety of technology areas? And here you are insulting him when you are some stay at home spam blogger who won't even reveal his real name? What a sad little pathetic life you lead.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 6:52am

    If they're so concerned about privacy, then surely getting this in the news didn't help their cause either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Kevin, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 7:05am

    Re: Privacy & Street View

    But isn't this always the way things work? Witnessing a camera-laden vehicle motoring down your street is a tangible demonstration of the privacy challenge, where the other items are more obtuse or concealed.

    Not only that, but it gets into the legal concept of "expectation of privacy" that is used in other arenas. We don't necessarily have an expectation of privacy in public areas. There's a picture of my house available on the county assessors website. Anyone can drive by and view my house real-time. Is that an invasion of my privacy?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Azrael, Apr 4th, 2009 @ 12:58am

      Re: Re: Privacy & Street View

      Sorry to telly but you are never going to convince the idiots with logical reasons. Try the "but think of the children" argument, you could easily twist it in your favor.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Dave, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 7:17am

    Easy Target

    @Art - Love it! Great points.

    I think the big diff betweeen people screaming about Google Street View and not complaining about ISPs or the government storing their emails is... they don't have a clue.

    GSV is an easy target because you can go to their website and point at pics of houses as the invasion of privacy. There are even actual cars driving around that you can attack!

    There's no easy target or evidence for what the ISP's are doing, so starting a protest about it can make you sound like a paranoid fool, even if you're right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 7:48am

    the world is full of hipocrites? what else?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tgeigs, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Not the point

    "Personally, I don't have anything to hide from the government, so if they want to keep a log of my phonecalls, they are welcome to it."

    That is a fair sentiment, and I think it would work logically, but only IF you trust your government to have your best interests at heart. As a whole, I just can't do that. My assessment of history just won't allow it. So for me, while I don't have MUCH to hide, certainly nothing spectacularly illegal, that's not where my opposition originates. I'm far more concerned about the innocent things that can be gleamed by my intrusive government as a way to exert further control over me and my fellow citizens.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Forget the government

    The information revealed by GSV (mere pictures of building exteriors) pales in comparison to what goes into any standard real estate listing. I actually checked, and a would-be burglar would be much better off browsing the MLS listings. Detailed exterior *and* interior views, details about the property, the price, nearby "attractive" features of the community etc. And it's done voluntarily by the same people that get upset when a camera drives down the street. I guess the desire for profit outweighs the desire for privacy when expedient.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Weird Harold, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 9:05am

      Re: Forget the government

      Yes, except that when we make an MLS listing, we know what we are getting into, and we enter into the contract willingly. It isn't like Google is asking if you want to be shown or not, and plenty of people get caught unaware or in situations they don't want to be seen in.

      @Anonymous Coward: Sorry, I can't link the to the TV program I saw on the matter a couple of years ago, I think it was ITV, but I can't seem to find it. I am sure some of our UK readers may be able to shed some light on the window blur system.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 9:41am

        Re: Re: Forget the government

        So, instead of complaining about someone taking a picture of the front of your house from a public road that anyone could take and put up online, you are now allowing people to take pictures of all sides of your house and even inside your house to post online where someone could see and decide that you have some nice stuff and you're moving so now would be a good time to go looting.

        (sorry for the run on sentience.)

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 11:18am

        Re: Re: Forget the government

        True. Having experienced the home selling process a few times now, I can say that privacy is not part of the bargain, though it should be.

        However ...

        An MLS listing discloses a lot of information about the neighborhood which affects the neighbors. It discloses quite a lot (like the value of the home, inside layout, location of doors/windows/landscaping/etc) that affects not only the current resident, but the subsequent purchaser of the home (who may not have agreed to the revelation of so much detail).

        The point isn't whether the information is voluntarily given or not, the point is that these townspeople are getting upset at a level of information (a limited series of images only) that pales in comparison to information that is available through other means.

        As far as your point about "entering into a contract willingly", Google isn't seeing anything that anyone else standing on the street could not see. There is no "caught unaware in situations they don't want to be seen in". Someone halfway around the globe won't care that someone is embracing a person other than their spouse in public view. The townspeople might, on the other hand, and they are physically present and able to violate this "privacy in public view" in the form of gossip and whatnot with more dire consequences than someone in Tibet who giggles because you scratched your ass in public.

        Honestly, the only problem I see is one of xenophobia: stranger + camera = bad.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Azrael, Apr 4th, 2009 @ 1:05am

        Re: Re: Forget the government

        Yes, i've seen that program on BBC One and it specifically complained of the fact that the CCTV cameras were a clear invasion of privacy. The blurring was done just for those who have sued the local government in court and won.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 8:38am

    I wanna know

    If I Google Broughton and look at the street view, will I see the human chain?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rob Reed, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 9:04am

    Google street view

    British civil liberties and freedom of speech have been eroded. Trouble is how do we change it? They took our rights to complain away first.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Andy, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 11:12am

      Re: Google street view

      But they didn'┬Ęt take away your right to vote. Exercise it and when making your choice, ensure you vote for someone who does NOT believe that politicians should act as your masters and enslavers. Try choosing a candidate who believe he is standing for election as a public servant and who understands the real value of a free electorate and a real democracy.

      You can't just blame the politicians when it is the "people" who put them in the positions they hold.

      For goodness sake, Britain, wake up and stop for the fallacy of the "nothing to hide, nothing to worry about" fools!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mapper99, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 9:40am

    Google Street View Sightings

    Worried about sights like these I guess:

    http://streetviewgallery.corank.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Sean, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Horrible Argument

    Before everyone starts lynch mobbing poor Harold and circling the wagons around Carlo, let's just dissect his non sequitur argument:

    1. He compares image capturing of people's neighborhoods with the British government tracking online behavior. That is his LEAD sentence, and it's a terribly erroneous analogy. Tracking the websites I visit is not akin to taking pictures of my house.

    2. So let me get this straight...Carlo is defending the perceived invasion of privacy by Google, by claiming the government already invades these citizens' privacy? Come on, how old were you all when you learned two wrongs don't make a right.

    Look, quite frankly, I am not scared of Google Streetview. that being said, if these British citizens have a problem with it...SO WHAT! The funny part is, had anyone actually read the article in the Guardian yesterday about this...they'd have realized there has actually been an increase in burglaries in the area, which has been attributed to street view. Regardless of whether or not streetview is the culprit, it is common perception..and certainly makes sense why people are hesitant about the video cameras.

    Just because half the world has gone lifestreaming crazy and want to broadcast every mundane tidbit of their lives for the whole world to see, doesn't mean the other half of the world shouldn't have their privacy respected.

    Why is that so hard to understand?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike (profile), Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 10:46am

      Re: Horrible Argument

      1. He compares image capturing of people's neighborhoods with the British government tracking online behavior. That is his LEAD sentence, and it's a terribly erroneous analogy. Tracking the websites I visit is not akin to taking pictures of my house.

      I actually think it's perfectly apt. Carlo's point is that these folks are complaining about their privacy being violated because Google's taking photos from the street of their homes -- which ANYONE CAN DO just by standing out there in public. Yet, at the same time, the gov't is (illegally in many cases) tracking all sorts of *private* info, and they're not nearly as upset.

      I think his point makes a ton of sense.

      I'm confused why you do not.

      2. So let me get this straight...Carlo is defending the perceived invasion of privacy by Google, by claiming the government already invades these citizens' privacy? Come on, how old were you all when you learned two wrongs don't make a right.


      That's not what he said at all. What he said was (a) what Google is doing (taking photos in public places) is not a violation of privacy and (b) the actual violation of privacy is elsewhere. I thought it was kinda clear.

      The funny part is, had anyone actually read the article in the Guardian yesterday about this...they'd have realized there has actually been an increase in burglaries in the area, which has been attributed to street view. Regardless of whether or not streetview is the culprit, it is common perception..and certainly makes sense why people are hesitant about the video cameras.

      So, because a bunch of people are wrong, it's ok? I'm having trouble with the logic here...

      Just because half the world has gone lifestreaming crazy and want to broadcast every mundane tidbit of their lives for the whole world to see, doesn't mean the other half of the world shouldn't have their privacy respected.

      Uh... but this doesn't violate anyone's privacy. How hard is that to understand? This is taking photos IN PUBLIC.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 10:53am

      Re: Horrible Argument

      Carlo is writing to comment on the fact that people are freaking out about something that really isn't a privacy violation when they should look elsewhere to see a true privacy violation.

      You automatically assume that no one has read the article? I've read about 6 today alone. I know that they justified their actions by stating that there has been 3 robberies in the last 6 months. I also know that their town is NOT on Google street view, never was. It seems to me like these thieves can rob these people blind just fine without street view and they will just blame Google for it.

      Look at this from another angle. What would happen if I decided to take a picture of the neighborhood, say I wanted to move there? If these people had a problem with it and ran me out of town, the cops would have a problem with them and not me, and the articles would be about a horrible mob attacking some innocent who was not in violation of privacy.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Shannon, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 10:59am

    What some of you seem to be forgetting ...

    ... is the Broughton citizens can have their pictures removed once launched. That seems a better solution than denying Street View for those who actually find it useful and want the photos of their homes published. And if it turns out most Britons opt to remove, then lesson learned, Google.

    In fact, you might help your non-tech friends who may be unaware of SV, by letting them know their houses are in SV and show them how to remove the photos.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    James Gresham, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 11:24am

    Given the main complaints of those who are opposing Google Maps in this case, the example given wasn't a great one. (though I agree their arguments are weak at best).

    The complaints in the articles linked about Google Maps seemed to fall into two catogories: A) This will increase crime / make crime easier, and B) They shouldn't be allowed to do this without consent. The governmental examples are actually touted as anti crime measures, and given the limited access and requirement for a valid reason to access information, consent is less of an issue too. Privacy from the government over comms records and public privacy from photos are pretty distinct issues.

    Ultimately these people haven't got a leg to stand on legally - as Mike said, photos in public - and in my opinion they are also wrong about the supposed "dangers". Most of them probably know that. They just feel uncomfortable with the idea of people taking photos of their homes and posting them online, just like someone might if you took a bunch of photos of them walking in the street. That isn't even close to a good enough reason to stop Google, but it's not totally unreasonable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Which is more visible?

    Like some other posters have said, I think people are going after the more visible target. In this case, people *see* the the Google vehicle, so they scream "invasion of privacy!". They can't see ISP's selling their information, they can't see an increase in targeted-marketing, and they can't see an increase in data-collection (and data-mining) from the government, so they don't see anything to scream about.

    It's just like fighting terrorism. Which is more effective at stopping terrorism: posting heavily-armed guards at the airport in full view of the public or making sure intelligence agents use the latest technology to infiltrate and monitor communications between suspected terrorists?
    Which is more visible?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Dave, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    WH Funny

    Seems like people troll here more to bash on WH than to read the articles!

    WH, are you really Masnick in disguise just stirring things up to generate more attention for this site??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    dude, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    How embarassing ... I live in England and this kind of 'little englander' mentality is pervasive outside of London ... just totally embarassing..

    These are the same type of people who want MORE CCTV cameras because "the government is doing nothing on crime" yada yada yada.

    Burgle them? I wouldn't want so much as to breathe the same air.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 4th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    Street View

    In fact, while your argument is undoubtedly true, a criminal or terrorist would "case" the area without Street View before doing anything, anyone trying to help (such as the police) would be hampered.
    Arguably the result would be to aid criminals and terrorists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2009 @ 9:24pm

    One wonders if the UK government is intentionally fomenting anti-Google sentiments to distract privacy advocates away from its own actions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This