Did Google Street View Catch A Car Thief In The Act?

from the to-catch-a-thief dept

I'll be the first to admit that I think many of the privacy concerns over Google's Street View are totally overblown, and the calls for things like blurring houses are silly and misguided. However, I was initially quite skeptical of this story, sent in by Richard, suggesting that Google Street View was useful in spotting a car thief.

The guy had a caravan that was stolen, and a year or so later, his son was looking at Google Street View, and noticed that the image of their house showed a strange man with an unrecognized SUV in the driveway. They began to suspect that this was the thief. The police were contacted, and they've now started to pass around the Street View images, asking for information on the man.

So, perhaps Street View isn't all evil?

Of course, due to the standard privacy concerns, Google blurs the license plates of vehicles, so the license plate on the SUV is blurred out. You can see it below:
It's not clear why they can't just ask Google for an unblurred picture -- though, perhaps law enforcement has forced Google to destroy the original images? Good thing the family didn't ask for their entire house to be blurred, huh?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 7:29pm

    Great, now Google is likely to get sued for privacy invasion and the feds are likely to investigate them for privacy invasion.

     

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    Sean Ness, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 7:37pm

    The originals have been destroyed

    They were kept on file, but in following with the law, the originals were destroyed after a year.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 8:15pm

    Yeah, tough call: Billions spied on, versus one possible thief...

    Oh, you've scraped plumb through the bottom of the barrel.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 9:07pm

      Re: Yeah, tough call: Billions spied on, versus one possible thief...

      According to your (poor) logic, there are apparently trillions of incidents of spying every day.

       

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      Paul`, Nov 16th, 2010 @ 10:59pm

      Re: Yeah, tough call: Billions spied on, versus one possible thief...

      Spying? They drove down the street and took photos of what you can see everyday from public property.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Nov 16th, 2010 @ 11:44pm

      Re: Yeah, tough call: Billions spied on, versus one possible thief...

      So, in your view "spying" = "taking a photo of something happening on a public street".

      By your logic, I'm spying on your correspondence with Mike.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 12:19am

        Re: Re: Yeah, tough call: Billions spied on, versus one possible thief...

        According to dictionary.com, I know it's not that great, his use of spy is fairly accurate:

        to be on the lookout; keep watch.

        to search for or examine something closely or carefully.

        to catch sight of suddenly

        to discover or find out by observation or scrutiny

        to inspect or examine or to search or look for closely or carefully


        Besides, in the UK we can just hire google to spy on the populace for a nominal fee and get rid of all the costly CCTV - awesome!

         

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          The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 9:08am

          Re: Re: Re: Yeah, tough call: Billions spied on, versus one possible thief...

          I suppose all the private security guys that "keep watch" at the doors of stores and jewellery shops should stop "spying" on us?

          I received a letter from my aunt, but I lost it. I searched for it, then I examined it closely and carefully while I read it. I suppose that means I'm spying on my aunt...

          I just discovered by observation or scrutiny that my coffee is cold. Oh no, another case of spying (on coffee).

           

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    darryl, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 12:28am

    Did Google catch a car theif ?? no..

    well was anyone conviced, chared, or even questioned ?

    and even if they do find out who that man is, that does not mean he stole the van.

    And there is no proof in that photo, that he was stealing that van..

    You never know he might of been there to sleep with the wife ?? or the husband !!!..

    So they find this guy, take him to court, and he says he did not steal the van.. when then ??

    Where is the proof, evidence or anything that shows he was not there for some other purpose.

    If you think this is a good thing for google, that we want them spying on us, taking pics without our permission, and taking care of our security for us..

    You are badly mistaken, people dont want google doing that, most countries dont want it... And this kind of thing will only reinforce that belief...

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 2:32am

    Copyright license?

    I trust the chap or the police obtained a license from Google to make and distribute copies of this photo?

    NB Any license he obtained doesn't necessarily license anyone else. TechDirt evades infringement (in some jurisdictions) by linking to it via imgur.com.

    YJMV

     

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    Ryan Diederich, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 3:30am

    Hint...

    Heres a hint, if I am out to get you, and I have the ability to make use of license plate numbers, you are already screwed.

    The layman cant use the numbers for anything.

    Maybe google should just make a really nice hand drawn map.

    With a hand drawn street view.

    As long as they dont use a copyrighted paintbrush tool in MS paint.

     

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    abc gum, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 5:19am

    I find it humorous that actual spying, much of it illegal, is overlooked and accepted as commonplace whereas driving down a public street with a camera is such a violation. Oh my.

     

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    Adam Bell (profile), Nov 17th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Blurring of license plates is not done everywhere. In the street view of my home in Canada, the license plate number of my car is easily read.

     

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    Jon Noowtun, Nov 17th, 2010 @ 9:54pm

    Gargle is EVIL!!!!! They violated that thief's rights by taking an unauthorized photo of him!!!!! If Gobble's Sneak View was strictly opt-in, like I've been insisting it should be, this never would have happened!!!!!

    www.Pee2PeeNet.net

     

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