Japanese Group Asks Google To Shut Down Street View

from the public-is-private dept

Apparently a Japanese civilian group, The Campaign Against Surveillance Society, is asking Google to shut down its Street View offering. This is hardly the first time that people have complained about Street View, but, honestly, it’s difficult to see how this is a “surveillance” issue or a violation of anyone’s privacy. Google is taking photos of public spaces that anyone is free to look at. It’s not doing it in real-time or anything. It’s just a still photo of a public place that anyone with a camera could take. I can understand people’s concerns about growing surveillance or loss of privacy, but efforts to combat those things should focus on areas where there are real threats to privacy — not a useful service like Google Street View.

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Comments on “Japanese Group Asks Google To Shut Down Street View”

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Peter Blaise Monahon (profile) says:

Re: "street view", that is, free speech, "is evil"?

Honestly, trying to prevent people’s free speech rights to take photos in public, and to publish photos of public spaces is just wrong – evil, in fact.

I think that is the kind of society we are trying to grow out of, the kind of throw-back societies in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban Malitia, and so on, where one or some in power do all the (lack of) thinking, then incflict their conclusions on everyone else.


harknell (profile) says:

public not the same idea

This is thee result of different cultural ideas. In Japan the idea of “public” doesn’t mean the same as here. In Japan it is considered appropriate to “ignore” certain things in public if it means covering up something that causes someone embarrassment. The public space they conceptualize is one where mental editing occurs–so taking a picture will not edit out these elements. It’s a different concept than our problems with constant surveillance.

Lucretious (profile) says:

This is nothing, there are areas in Nassau county on Long Island NY (plus areas of southwest Conn.) where not only the “street view” but the satellite views have been disabled as well. Many of the people who live in that area are some of the most powerful and influential executives in the world.

Must be nice to have that kind of juice….

Dan says:

The day is not far

I think we are yet to realize that the technology is useless one day. You cannot take your camera anywhere outside… because if you take a picture, there are a lot of information in the background that “you don’t own” and there are people “you didn’t asked permission” etc etc… Mike do you know that you will loose your job because you cannot write anything. All words in the english dictionary are copy righted or trademarks 🙂 It is a crazy world out there 🙂

Katie (user link) says:

Re: The day is not far

“…You cannot take your camera anywhere outside… because if you take a picture, there are a lot of information in the background that “you don’t own” and there are people “you didn’t asked permission” etc etc.”

Contrary to popular mythology, you do not need someone’s permission to take a picture of them in public. You do not need their permission to then publish this picture for all to see. A person’s appearance in public is, as should be obvious, public information. Furhter, the person taking the picture, not the subject, owns the copyright to the image. There are no legal grounds on which fight off this kind of stuff unless it becomes harassment (take a look at the paparazzi – not even the Golden Rule will save you.)

“All words in the english dictionary are copy righted or trademarks”

This is also incorrect. While a dictionary *itself* can be, and usually is, under copyright, none of the words in are necessarily trademarks. As for copyrights, individual words and phrases cannot be copyrighted anyway. You’d have to get to at least a poem before you could copyright it – copyrights are for “creative works”, trademarks are for invented phrases and names, like Ubuntu(R) and “Linux for Human Beings”(TM)

If you were suggesting that this is where things are headed, rather than the way they actually are, then I apologize and fear you might have a point. ^~

Chris says:

just throwing this out there

in a technologically advanced world such as ours, where the majority of people still use keys that can be photographed from a relatively far distance and copied via said photograph, how long do people think it will take before a negative influence starts deploying cameras in dense neighborhoods and robs entire blocks blind either overnight or in the middle of the day?

Im all for surveillance, I think its the only way I will feel safe if tech keeps progressing as it will.

other note, ever been somewhere where you took your credit card or wallet out in public while there was somebody nearby with using a phone? high definition cameras will be making their way into cell phones, all it takes is one person sitting at a bar to steal tens if not hundreds of credit card numbers in a single sitting.

Katie (user link) says:

Re: just throwing this out there

Copying keys from photographs seems like a rather unlikely application of this, and it probably wouldn’t work. It’s not like a locksmith is going to cut you a key from a photograph, let alone hundreds of these keys, and if you have the tools to grind keys yourself, you might as well just learn to pick locks. It’s not very hard – I learned during a slow day at work with a screwdriver and a paperclip and showed off my new skill by letting myself into my friend’s house and scaring the crap out of her in the process.

And considering you could much more easily pose as a gardener and gain entrance through a window which nobody is there to see or hear you break…

Regarding credit cards, though, that is more genuine cause for concern. Picking up credit card numbers from photographs is one of several popular methods of identity theft. It’s also the reasons they’ve added the small-print security number on the backs of cards, so that a picture of one side of the card will not be sufficient to use it.

The single largest source of identity theft is mail fraud, either from discarded mail which wasn’t shredded or stolen directly out of mailboxes before it gets picked up.

While I wouldn’t worry too much about cameras in public places, it is something to be aware of.

Bunny says:

Only a strange person would do that kind of thing

Mike says:

It’s just a still photo of a public place that anyone with a camera could take

True enough, but then again, if you saw someone going down your block taking pictures of every house, wouldn’t you be a little suspicious as to their motives? Even if there was no harm intended, you would be convinced that you were being stalked by a voyeur or worse.

To those who want a slippery slope, here it is: image tags could be added to every object seen in these pictures. That is, if the image recognizer can see a plasma TV through one of the windows because the curtain was left open, it may tag the image appropriately, and then someone wanting to steal one would have an easier time finding the exact place that has one.

Chad says:

My only concern for something like Street view would be that although they’re just still images of a public place, there are often still images of people, vehicles, etc.. More precisely: people who have not given their consent to be photographed and to have their picture posted for the public to see….. and although there shouldn’t be anything WRONG with that, it still should be up to the person.

I know that if you were working for any kind of media outlet and wanted to take pictures of people in a mall or on the street, you actually have to go and get consent from them.. save for filming a person on the street. Well.. Google seems to be getting around this entirely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I know that if you were working for any kind of media outlet and wanted to take pictures of people in a mall or on the street, you actually have to go and get consent from them”

In Japan ?
In the us I’ve seen many newspaper published photos of public places where there were far too many people for the newspaper to have abtained consent from each and every one of them.

Peter Blaise Monahon (profile) says:

Photography is free speech, I guess complaining about it is free speech, also.

But complaining should go directly to Google or to the publisher of any material, not to any government.

Perhaps Google should turn it into a street-view-wiki all over the world where people attach their own photos, vetted out by others wiki-style, then let the public do their own photography!

Also, this is a two part rights issue:

“Google is taking photos of public spaces that anyone is free to look at.”


“Google is taking photos of public spaces that anyone is free to look at, and publishing them on the Internet.”

Taking photos, and publishing anything, are two almost entirely unrelated areas of law.

Mark Regan says:

"Unauthorized" photos

Actually, private investigators, insurance investigators, real estate agents, and bank and finance company auditors routinely take photos of nearly every house in the country at one time or another, in some cases, at least annually.

Anyone who has a fire insurance policy on a structure can assume that their insurance company will send someone out each year to document it’s current condition prior to the renewal of the policy. Finance companies routinely get pictures of the collateral (house, car in driveway, boat in yard, RV out back, etc.) for their files. In a divorce case? Many pictures are taken, documenting visitors, value, condition, etc. Code officials and tax authorities will take pictures of grass length, number of vehicles and tags or permits displayed, etc. Real Estate agents and appraisers will take photos to document relative value of houses, condition of neighborhood or property in question, etc.

Businesses will have photos taken of their sign (by the city sign dept to ensure compliance with zoning laws), their inventory by the finance company with a lien on inventory, their overall premises by the insurance company loss prevention dept, etc.

Most of these photos are taken routinely and without anyone noticing, and placed on proprietary databases for sale without the knowledge of the resident or business owner. All Google is doing is making this information available for free to the general public so we can visit places virtually from the convenience of our computer screen.

Zaphod (user link) says:

Solution to stop street view from including your house.

Okay, this is going a bit far, but I bet someone will do it.

Make a huge sign with a foul word on it out of infra-red LEDs. Then only someone looking at your house with a camera (most are IR sensitive) will see the virtual bird they are being given, and know not to take a picture, or, if they do, they polute their archive with profanity.

Simple ’nuff?

JustMe says:

I remember

Asking one of my Japanese hosts about all of the homeless men sleeping in the public parks at night (hey, my internal clock was 12 hours off, what can I say) and I was told there wasn’t anybody sleeping in the parks at night, because there were no homeless people. This was in the mid-90’s so I asked about the economic depression they had been in for a number of years. I was told there was no depression. Crazy stuff.

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