Google Street View Is Invasion Of Privacy... But The BBC Showing Everyone At The Royal Wedding?

from the double-standards dept

We've been somewhat mystified about the complaints people have about images of people on Google Street View. Google is now "blurring" people to help deal with the issue, but it seems pretty silly, really. You're out in public. Someone can randomly take your photo. Of course, the backlash against Google Street View has been particularly harsh throughout Europe, where people insist it's a massive affront to their privacy. And yet... Glyn Moody points us to a blog post comparing the reaction to Street View to the reaction to the BBC putting up a high-def image of crowds at the Royal Wedding, and asking people if they can spot themselves.
This raises an interesting question on privacy and balance.

Google decided to blur the faces of ordinary people going about their ordinary activities caught on Street View.

The BBC have decided, where events like the Royal Wedding are concerned, it's fine to have high definition street shots showing the faces of ordinary people in the crowd; not to mention police officers, armed forces and - presumably - under-cover crowd security officers.
It certainly seems like a double standard. Is there something different about this being an "event"? I can't see how that makes much of a difference, really. Is there something about it being a "US" company vs. a UK organization? Or do people just not really think through these things until someone freaks out and screams "privacy violation!"?


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Lauren, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    It's been going on for decades

    Don't forget the photo on the backs of the Beatles' "Red" and "Blue" albums.

     

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    Matt (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    It seems to me the obvious difference is that people are aware the recording is happening and have chosen to be there.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 3:05am

      Re: Dont make sense, you will confuse them

      Dont talk sense Matt, you will only confuse them.

      But of course you are totally correct.

      But it will be beyond most here to understand that difference, the difference between being a willing partcipent or having someone drive down your street in a car with tinted windows sneaking snapshots of you, or your kids, or your visitors, or your car rego.

      And showing off the all the world what kind of lifestyle you live to see if it would be worthwile to rob your place.

      Or to be a target of directed advertising, if someone should think your house needs a new paint job, or its roof fixed, or you simply need to be scammed.

      As well, Google does not do ANYTHING unless they can made money from it, that applies to street view just as much as anything else.

      It's information, and google takes your information and turns it into profit.

      That profit comes from EVERYONE, because you pay more for the products you buy, because those companies PAY Google, and pass that cost onto you. (and me).

      Which really sucks if you do not use or like Goolag, and if you never use any of their products or services.

      (but I still have to pay for them).

       

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        Michael, May 5th, 2011 @ 5:29am

        Re: Re: Dont make sense, you will confuse them

        So the BBC should have to blur out the images of any people that happened to be in the pictures because they were in the area for other reasons? What if someone was walking past to get to the store?

        Also, why target Google? Should it be illegal to take a picture that accidentally captures the image of a person in it? What about intentionally taking someone's picture?

         

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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 9:11am

    It'd be clearer if it were a venue - there's often a standard disclaimer for "public" venues in the UK (or venues that let the public in) to say basically "You may be filmed in this venue and we can use it so there and you accept this by coming in". But in a public place like the Mall? I wonder if you could stretch that to an "event area. I suspect not.

    As for the Google thing, it was dumb in the first place. It might have been nice if they'd had a process where you could spot yourself and apply to be taken out (likely that'd be covered by the UK Data Protection Act) but a blanket "But what about my privacy standing here in full view" scrape seemed a bit of a stretch at the time.

     

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    chuck, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:23am

    Unless of course you "happen" to be coming out of a house that "happens" to not be the one where you and the wife live, as a "stranger" "happens" to be blowing a kiss towards you.
    Hypothetically speaking that is...

     

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    Turbo, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:29am

    You can't see the difference?

    There's a huge difference between your face being visible in a photo of some huge event that you attended - where you were aware that hundreds of photographers were going to be taking pictures - and your face being visible on an online map because some car took a photo of you as you were crossing the street.

     

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      t3hi3x, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:42am

      Re: You can't see the difference?

      I agree...you attend this event knowing there are tons of media people filming it. Honestly if I were there I think it'd be cool to try to find my face.

      It's a totally different story for google street car. You're living your life under the assumption you're not being filmed or photographed - a completely different situation. In this case, I'd be upset if I found my face on google street view.

      All that said BBC should have thought this through a bit more. The image is cool - I love these gigapixel+ images, but there are hundreds of people there, and some are bound to be upset about their face being on the internet for millions to see - I mean look at some of the faces people are making :D

       

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        Vincent Clement (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 9:50am

        Re: Re: You can't see the difference?

        You're living your life under the assumption you're not being filmed or photographed

        That's a stretch. Once you step out in public or open your curtains, you are not entitled to any privacy. Besides, isn't the UK the place with all those government CCTV cameras?

         

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          Duke (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 7:33pm

          Re: Re: Re: You can't see the difference?

          Once you step out in public or open your curtains, you are not entitled to any privacy.

          Actually, in Europe, you are. At least as far as the law is concerned - there's plenty of case law from the ECrHR on it (I think Peck v UK is one of the main ones). It is perfectly possible to have an "expectation of privacy" while in public.

          And that is probably the difference between what the BBC have done, and what Google did. When you are going about your daily life, you do not expect to have your picture taken, in reasonable detail, and posted for all to see on the Internet. When you are attending a twice*-in-a-lifetime event, as part of a huge crowd, where there are hundreds, if not thousands of cameras present, pointing in all directions, including large chunks of the media, I think there is less of an expectation of privacy.

          There is also an element of consent; i.e. turning up at such a high-profile event, rather than having the camera come to you.

          The CCTV comparison is slightly misleading; London may have quite a few cameras - probably not as many as some people might think - but most are privately owned, and directed at private property (the exception being the Underground). In any case, the part in bold above is also important; images gathered by a CCTV system must comply with the Data Protection Act; i.e. be stored securely, not be displayed to the public and so on. This is significantly different from what Google (and the BBC) did, in making the images available.

          Do I think it is hypocritical of the UK media and politicians to be slagging off Google and ignoring the BBC? Yes. But it wouldn't be the first time...

          * Depending on divorce rates.

           

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          Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 1:34am

          Re: Re: Re: You can't see the difference?

          Besides, isn't the UK the place with all those government CCTV cameras?

          Yup, I believe the statistic is in London you're caught on camera around 300 times a day. We have more CCTV cameras per capita than any nation on earth. Indeed I seem to remember we have about 4 x the TOTAL number of cameras of you lot in the US or some similarly ludicrous number.

           

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        CommonSense (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

        Re: Re: You can't see the difference?

        "You're living your life under the assumption you're not being filmed or photographed"

        Then that is YOUR mistake. Big brother is watching, whether you're paranoid or not. Traffic camera's could catch your face at any moment. Any building's security camera's could do the same. If you assume you're not being photographed in public, then you're an ass.

        If your trash is fair game to the public as soon as you put it out on the curb, then the minute you step out on the curb yourself, you shouldn't expect any level of privacy.

         

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    John Doe, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    The difference is easy to spot

    One company is British and the other one is American. It is a cash/power grab by the European countries against the big, rich American companies.

     

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      Old Fool (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 11:14am

      Re: The difference is easy to spot

      What cash?

      What power?

      Seriously, the BBC is not in competition with Google, they are not even allowed to show a profit on anything they do.

      If I go to an event, I expect to be seen in public.
      Walking down an ordinary road, I get uncomfortable if anyone even looks at me too long - suddenly appearing on street view for the entire planet to see can be too much for some people.

       

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    el_porko (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 9:34am

    I think it's more of a case of expectations, as part of an "event" one would expect cameras and media to be there and taking video and photos. If you don't want in the limelight you don't go to the event.
    But while walking down a street one does not expect to have their photo taken and there is no way anyone can do anything about it.

    So yes, there is a difference.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:37am

    You really don't get this? It's simple. When people are at an event, where everyone is taking tons of photos and there is media all around, people expect to be caught on camera. However when you are at your home, people aren't fond of cars with cameras sneaking by and snapping up pictures at a random moment, to be shared on the internet with your address.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:41am

      Re:

      Mike doesn't understand common sense, so that will be way to hard for him to understand.

       

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      Ccomp5950 (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 9:45am

      Re:

      What you said would make sense if it was targeted at you alone. However it's worldwide and not you specifically.

      It's recording what is easily viewed on public streets (or that is the intent despite them driving up a private driveway a couple times).

      It's in the PUBLIC and should be fair game.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      It's the public place. the moment your foot steps into the street, it's fair game. If you are taking a picture of your friend at a park and I happen to be walking on the background, i'm not gonna sue you or bitch about it.

       

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      The eejit (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      But then there can be no universal law coverting privacy. Google opted to blur out the faces of those in the images, both inside AND outside. You can't punish Google for trying to provide a service and then not punish Auntie for doing the same kind of thing.

      And no, I don't consider the Windsors to be special, why do you ask?

       

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    Vic, May 4th, 2011 @ 9:41am

    I tend to agree that it's more "the US vs us".

    Expectations wise... (for Turbo and el_porko) when you step out into the streets - I'll bet you anything there are always plenty of street/tourist/amateur photographers out there, and you can expect to be pictured at any time. Nobody would come to every single person on the street and warn them about pictures.

     

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    Joseph K (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 9:45am

    The thinking process

    "Do people just not really think through these things"

    Yes, they do think these things through. They think:

    Step 1: Find way to make profitable, litigatable complaint
    Step 2: Call Lawyer
    Step 3: ? ? ? (We'll figure it out along the way)
    Step 4: Profit

    For the politicians the reasoning is slightly different, but similar. They think:

    Step 1: Discover something that people might get worked up over
    Step 2: Call a press conference and get people worked up
    Step 3: ? ? ? (We'll figure out something to do about it)
    Step 4: Win elections

     

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    krusty-g (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    Interpretation

    Interesting attempts at arguments, but "event" and "expecations" are far too vague and differ so much from person to person that you can't base laws on them.
    So you're back to "in public = no privacy", seems pretty straightforward to me.

     

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    Techdirt Reader, May 4th, 2011 @ 10:37am

    Privacy

    People are going to freak out. That's what masses of people do when led by zealots claiming anything controversial. It's the way society works and how leaders with bad policies but good charisma continue to find their ways into places of power.

    Human beings want to be a part of something, and want to feel they are protected. If someone points out that they are being violated (even if it's NOT really a violation) people WANT to believe the person trying to protect them. It's how pedophiles pray on the innocent.

    People will continue to scream for more privacy, more privacy, "You're violating my privacy!" as long as courts and media and whoever else will listen. Are there genuine concerns? Possibly. Is it mostly for show and an attempt to seem more important than one is and trying to protect people from something they don't actually need to be protected from? More likely.

    People love to bring up the argument that if you let them do then they will naturally progress to . I personally find it hard to believe the nativity of this argument but then find it sad and disconcerting that such a thought even comes up. Either in the minds of the people assuming such things happen or a government entity wishing to impose it.

    In the end, Google Street View, if you can catch me on the sidewalk either eating a hot dog or propositioning a prostitute then congratulations! Either case, I really don't care. When Google Street view photographs me sleeping in my bedroom, then we'll have words.

     

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    Techdirt Reader, May 4th, 2011 @ 10:42am

    Privacy (edit)

    Apparently putting brackets around something causes it to be interpreted as code... so one of the paragraphs above came missing some content:

    People love to bring up the argument that if you let them do "Insert any random act of perceived privacy violation that is truly inconsequential (like google street view) " then they will naturally progress to "some form of privacy violation that involves being invaded in ones home". I personally find it hard to believe the nativity of this argument but then find it sad and disconcerting that such a thought even comes up. Either in the minds of the people assuming such things happen or a government entity wishing to impose it.

     

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    Richard Chapman, May 4th, 2011 @ 11:02am

    What's the Standard.

    If a Google street view van had driven by taking pictures during the Royal Wedding, would it be required to blur out the faces? If not, why? What standard would apply in that situation?

     

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      Vic, May 4th, 2011 @ 11:09am

      Re: What's the Standard.

      That's a great point. Obviously that is exactly what Google vans should have dome in the first place! Just wait for some (any) kind of celebrations and drive the vans taking pictures then, when there are more people on the streets! You cannot hold them liable, after all it is a public event time!

       

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    Jeremy7600, May 4th, 2011 @ 11:34am

    Out in public? Shouldn't the fact that you are "In Public" unequivocally mean that you are not "In private" and there is *absolutely* NO expectation, under any circumstances, that you will be granted some sort of privacy? How do you reconcile the fact that you are IN PUBLIC with some deranged expectation of being IN PRIVATE.

    Logic might help, but probably won't.

    Public =/= Private
    Private =/= Public (listed twice for those that might be confused)
    Being in Public == No privacy (expected, given, or assumed)
    Being in private == Privacy (should be expected, given, and assumed)

    This assume the knowledge that public is any location past your front door, past the "private road" you live or work on, or anything outdoors not surrounded by a fence.

    I'm sure if I've forgotten something, someone will correct me, but hopefully the idea is strong enough to come across.

     

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    NotMyRealName (profile), May 4th, 2011 @ 12:07pm

     

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    Jon Noowtun, May 4th, 2011 @ 5:44pm

    I'm sure the news crews were operating on a strictly "opt in" policy and made sure to get signed consent forms from every single person in the crowd before filming them.

    Just like Google should have done with the millions of homeowners it invaded the privacy of!

     

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    Griff (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 6:07am

    It's important to note...

    .. that in the UK this was a public holiday.

    If people had been pulling a sickie to be there and their boss saw them on the beeb, the story would be completely different.


    My mate and I camped in the street through the night till about noon for LiveAid concert tickets. As the doors opened, the press were there, and my mate's picture made the front page of the evening news (sold at the exit of our large employer's car park as people leave). Needless to say he was supposed to be off sick and his boss saw him in the paper...

     

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    Kevin, Apr 15th, 2012 @ 6:53am

    Google Street View Does Not Invade Privacy

    Google street view does not invade people's privacy because it increases tourism in the country's where it shows its pictures.

     

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    Michael, Apr 16th, 2012 @ 8:10am

    Confusing...

    I guess we should look at it from a different side buddy...But anyways people should stop targeting google

     

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