Monday, March 30, 2009

Street View Backlashes

When Google (who hosts this blog) started their Street View addition to their map program, everybody loved it, right? After all, now you could plot a trip to somewhere, witnessing it without even leaving your house.

Well, everybody but these guys in what I suspect to be America, but could just as easily be some other drive-on-the-right-side country. They got caught doing something they hoped nobody would notice.

Google has also found that other countries have very different ideas about privacy than their own United States. In Japan, the crowding is very great, and personal space is at a premium. So there, even though the house faces the street, looking directly in is forbidden. London in the UK likewise freaked out. They may be riddled with cameras, but those are only seen by the police, and the information gets dumped after a while.

I can sympathize with the complaints, which mostly revolve around the fact that every person has unfettered access to the feeds. Given enough details, wanna-be burglers could use this as research for break-in points. Other houses often have large picture-windows, allowing essentially anyone to glance in. I don't want to have to live in the kind of society that thinks that if I didn't specifically bar and lock it, that it's freely accessible to anyone who feels like it. After all, if I leave my car unlocked, that doesn't give people the right to hot wire it and drive it off.

What Google's responsibilities in this are unclear. Already they have re-recorded a number of streets because they happened to catch something embarrassing on their pass through. (And because the person depicted complained.) Politicians have gone so far as to demand that Google blur all buildings (on the grounds that knowledge of the building's configuration would be enough to plan a terror attack on it). There are even people who insist that Streetview should not exist. However, other people love the information and would be at a disadvantage without it.

Obviously privacy rights will differ from culture to culture, but can Google make one system that works with all of them?

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