Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Have you been seen doing something you shouldn't?

There is a story on the BBC website today saying that 'privacy campaigners' want the Google Maps Street View service switched off. They cite more that 200 reports from members of the public that they are identifiable on the service.
For those that don't know, Google Maps is a map service from Google where you can pin-point a post code and zoom in down to street level using satellite imagery. For a while that was all you could do, but then they launched Street View. This involved cars driving round the streets taking photo after photo, and then uploading these to their servers so that when you find a post code (say, your own house) you can click on the Street View link and be put 'on the street' in front of that post code... and you can then look left and right and move up and down the street.

"Fantastic!" people said... for a while it was fun to look at your own house, your friends house, see if you could spot yourself, or look in windows etc. But as the report on the BBC says, it has also caused problems. Two examples it gives is one of a woman who moved to escape a violent partner and is seen on Street View outside her new home... and another one of two work colleagues caught in a 'compromising position' and who suffered embarrassment when the image was circulated at work.
I can understand how some people would not want to be seen on such a service. Saying you're one place, but being photographed somewhere else will ALWAYS cause problems - but I'm sorry in some instances, it's your own fault. Compromising position?? Whatever they were doing, why do it in public?!
And the woman who moved away from her violent partner - OK, its a sad situation, but unless this violent person already knows your post code, (which means you're f*cked already) how is he / she going to find you? Search through EVERY IMAGE on the site? Yeah, they have a spare 1000 years I guess.
I think the privacy campaigners have over-reacted a little. Google have always said if an image needs removing or modifying (they usually blur faces / car registrations) they will gladly do it. But to shut the whole service down? I don't know.

What this whole situation has done is made me think about how I feel about the whole 'privacy' thing... and I can honestly say I'm torn. On the one hand, the old "if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear" argument is a good one. If you're going about your business and doing nothing illegal, or that which you shouldn't be doing, then what have you got to get upset about? But then I don't like that fact I'm being watched or photographed without my knowledge or permission... (those that know me know I absolutely despise my photo being taken anyway!) and the fact that my image can be used by whoever took the photo for whatever they want without my knowledge is quite scary. It's a tricky one.
So anyway - I hope I've given you all something to think / talk about today. Have a great Tuesday.


Charlie Naseweis said...

It's an interesting debate & I'm unsure which side I'm on too.

Fortunately you can only see the reflection on the windows of the google earth view of my flat!

Anonymous said...

It's well documented that we all get clocked by CCTV a zillion times a day and generally I would hope that is a good thing. In particular, I can see its value in solving crime and preventing terrorism. So from that aspect alone I feel quite comfortable about being caught on camera everywhere I go. Am I bothered that Google has a photo of my house on Street View, no. Am I bothered that my car is parked outside for anyone to see, no. Would I be bothered if the photo showed me inviting the postman in, yes. Is it Google's fault if I get caught with the postman? No, it is my own fault. I'm not sure, can we have it both ways?

Phil Dawson said...

Sorry to be another fence sitter but i think im 50/50 also.

Ive got nothing to hide but just because there's nothing to know, should someone know everything about me?

The more i hear about the amount of information out there on every living being, the more i want to live off the grid in the middle of a desert!

Try and google me now fokkers!