Japan, Greece The Latest To Join The Anti-Street View Party

from the jump-on-the-bandwagon dept

Lots of people around the world have worked themselves into a lather over the supposed privacy invasions of Google Street View, as well as the security threat they say it creates. These fears are largely unfounded, since Street View displays images of public spaces, and since it really doesn’t give would-be criminals information they couldn’t easily find elsewhere; and most courts and governments have agreed. Still, the Street View backlash continues to spread, with groups in Japan and Greece the latest to take exception to it. Officials in Greece have forced Google to stop the project there until it provides more details on how long it will store photos and how it will protect people’s privacy. In Japan, Google is being forced to re-shoot photos in a dozen cities because its car-mounted cameras were too high. It will lower its cameras there by 16 inches so they can’t see over fences around people’s homes. That’s a nice gesture from Google, but will Japan also ban multi-story buildings that let people see over fences? Will ladders and scaffolding be next?

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Comments on “Japan, Greece The Latest To Join The Anti-Street View Party”

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Chargone says:

actually, I’d say that the issue in japan of the cameras being too high is potentially a perfectly legitimate concern.
others may of course disagree.
it certainly seems a more reasonable objection than many I’ve heard, and sounds more like a regulatory issue than anything.

that said, i can’t help but find most privacy advocate groups laughably lunatic [well, ridiculous, really, but that didn’t alliterate] with regards to which battles they chose to fight and which not to. then they take silly positions as well.

on the other hand you then get governments happily violating every limit of reasonable consideration of privacy for the most ridiculous reasons, so i suppose fair is fair. one typically gets further by being Smarter than one’s opponent though…

Alan says:

I have to agree with Chargone with regard to the height of the cameras. If they were at average eye-level then you certainly wouldn’t see anything on the photos that a normal person wouldn’t see. However, having them mounted at 2-2.5 metres means that a lot more detail can potentially be found on Street View (looking over 1.8 metre fences for instance).

DaveSmith says:

It’s a legitimate concern with Japan. I haven’t been to Greece, so I don’t know about that.

Japan is densely populated with little protection to keep people from being a Peeping Tom. It’s not something the Japanese do, so it was of little concern to the public. You grow up just not looking into people’s houses. I remember using a public toilet at a park in Japan and it was like urinating on a short wall on a busy path. It wouldn’t fly in the US.

It makes sense to have maps. Japanese streets are random and confusing, but I also understand the concerns of their public.

Jerry Leichter (profile) says:

Understand other cultures

Other replies have mentioned this, but it’s worth looking at more deeply: What constitutes a “violation of privacy” is highly culture-bound. Applying your standards to a culture you don’t share or understand is highly questionable.

I don’t claim any deep understanding of Japanese – or, for that matter, Greek – culture. But what I have read about the Japanese is consistent with, say, DaveSmith’s remarks. Japan is, and has been for a very long time, a crowded country. Personal space is extremely limited. Rooms are separated from each other by paper screens. Pretty much everything you say can be overheard; much of what you do can be seen by others.

The Japanese, however, feel a need for privacy just as much as any other human beings. They provide it by social convention: Listening in and peeking is just *not done* in many circumstances. We as (predominantly, on this site) Westerners undoubtedly find this approach incomprehensible – just as Japanese no doubt find our fetish for huge homes and thick walls bizarre and hugely, unnecessarily wasteful.

A culture that is built upon a shared understanding that certain things, while physically visible, are simply not to be looked at by proper human beings, will certainly have a legitimate issue with a service that blindly publishes pictures out of their social context.

Frankly, it surprises me that the Japanese consider lowering the camera to human eye level to be enough of an adjustment. But that just shows how little I understand of the nuances of Japanese mores.

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