People who seem unable to operate a moving vehicle safely while talking on a cell phone are certainly unsafe. The rest of us, however, are safe.
In other words, when we look at the amount of times someone looks at something not directly in front of them (such as a billboard on the side of the road, for example) and then swerves left of center or worse, crashes into someone else or something else, we don't consider making it illegal to look at billboards, etc. or anything not directly in front of us. Instead, we make it illegal to swerve left of center, crash, etc, regardless the reason... i.e, if you can't operate a vehicle safely with all the distractions around you, then your driving behavior reflects it and you get ticketed.
I will be the first to admit that when I first got a cell phone YEARS ago, I noticed that I was driving extremely slow (I was subconsciously wrapped up in the conversation and trying to maintain safety while driving, resulting in an excessive reduction in speed). I immediately recognized this is ridiculous, because it shouldn't be any different than talking to a passenger beside me.
That's when I figured out that my use of a land line all my life put my brain into a 'mode' when I talked on a phone where I did not necessarily have to pay attention to what's around me. Talking to a passenger in a car, I was willing to bet, if studied would yield results that showed less comprehension of the conversation than when on a phone conversation due to the 'mode' your brain goes into from significant past experience talking to passengers in your car.
That being said, I was able to very quickly adjust my 'mode' of thinking when I spoke on a cell phone that is the same mode I am in when I am talking to a passenger. My attention is on the road, the conversation is secondary. The phone often is pulled away from my ear if I must look any direction other than in front of me, it's muscle memory by now, regardless if I or the person on the other end of the line is in mid-sentence. I simply switch lanes (for example), pull the phone back up to my ear and say "Repeat that please?" I have no worry in the world of 'offending' anyone I am talking to, as they can go fly a kite if they don't like it. I am sure there are many people who have learned how to use their phones while driving in the same attention focus as when they have a passenger in the car and are talking to them. After all, try can count how many times you see someone who is driving and talking on a phone who does NOT swerve, or otherwise drive erratically. I do this on a regular basis, and they far out number those who drive erratically or unsafe. We only hear from the anti-cell crowd who vents about all the drivers they see on cell phones and perhaps at times LOOK for any sign of illegal driving, otherwise known as confirmation bias.
The point here being that just as we learn to deal with distractions on the road in driver's ed. class and have since learned to navigate quite efficiently even taking a slight gander at one of those distractions here and there. We don't criminalize 'taking ganders' because some people haven't figured out how to drive with billboards, etc. on the side of the road.
As well, we shouldn't ban cell phones just because some people can't navigate while talking on one.
Just like snopes.com attempts to reduce the amount of sensationalized reactionary email responses to a made up issue, we need a site that attempts to do the same for reactionary comments with made up issues.
First, I don't blame you for thinking this is a violation of "rights" as I likely would have thought the same thing before I became a police officer over a decade ago. But I do get this complaint often from fellow citizens who do not realize that in a public place, the supreme court has ruled that one's expectation of privacy is very limited. I don't necessarily whole sale agree with this, but it is what it is.
Therefore, when in a public place, the default is that you should be aware you can be photographed. Exceptions would be the act of photographing someone during the course of harassment, which would require a pattern of behavior toward an individual by another individual/entity, in in which case would be a CIVIL issue, not a constitutional rights issue. Furthermore, if the pattern of photographing someone is being carried out to catch criminal behavior, the situation reverses again back to the right of the photographer to photograph someone in a public place over a series of incidents.
In short, Google isn't violating anyone's rights to photograph people on the street, and have taken efforts VOLUNTARILY to obscure faces and license plate numbers from their images. This was not a legal requirement, it was there own policy arguably "just to be kind" but certainly to avoid any civil lawsuits, frivolous or otherwise. This of course does not include the pictures that captured the goings-on INSIDE of some home where the curtains/blinds were pulled back. While that was still ostensibly not a legal issue, it could very easily be made into a strong civil case as rather than being an inadvertent pic you or I might capture when taking a picture of the front of a house, Google's planned practice of taking a picture of the front of just about every house could make them a lot more liable, again CIVILLY, by nor taking measures to obscure what they capture INSIDE houses.
Again, if anyone thinks Google 'worked with the police' on this clearly does not understand how minuscule the contribution, if any contribution at all, this photograph would have for the case in relation to the plethora of other evidence.
As a police officer who's worked these kinds of cases, that street view pic is essentially fodder and demonstrably unnecessary for the case, wherein the multiple covert buys are all that is ever needed for a virtual slam dunk case (assuming all constitutional rights and evidentiary proceedings ate carried out correctly). Furthermore, with the ease of which we see dealers dealing their contraband on various street corners, we get our own full color high res pictures and video of the deals going down at will. A snapshot from Google Street View does not hold a candle to the efficacy of the mountain of much more solid picture, video, and covert buying evidence we already get with ease. This street view pic was at most just a fun little addition to the case, if even entered into evidence at all. It doesn't establish an iota of evidence unless it happened to have been taken the moment a certain buy/deal was made and there was not already some other form of establishing the dealer's presence on that street corner at that particular moment. Again, though, that's hardly necessary in the grand scheme of slam dunk evidence the police already had.
I've used Facebook and the Latin-American version of Facebook to track down wanted felons, as well as used satellite views to get layouts of certain properties. I've also used county auditor sites to get floor plans of houses or businesses, but this is pretty standard practice these days.
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