Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Think Google Respects Your Privacy? Think Again

Google just got a whole lot more Big Brother-y. The big news this week was that Google introduced street-level maps in certain markets. For the record, Microsoft was in this market first, and at least they respect people's privacy. Microsoft has gone out of their way to obfuscate people's faces, license plates, etc from their street-level photography (which is why their rollout was so slow). Google has no such respect, so they show people in their houses, outside strip clubs, outside adult bookstores, and vehicle license plates. Oh yeah, and a crapload of other ones, courtesy of BoingBoing.

I'm just glad Google's not in Phoenix yet. Maybe those license plate anti-photo covers will be legal soon after all. Now if you'll please excuse me, I have to go close my blinds.

[via DrudgeReport]

Posted on May 30 2007, 11:48 PM by Robert McLaws
Filed under: , ,


  • Kaniaz said:

    I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to feel that Google is finally stepping over some line here. So, OK, they're just collecting pictures that anyone could go outside and take themselves, and then stitching them together. I don't suppose there's anything legally wrong with that.

    But the efficiency and level to which Google have done it is the real problem. The way I can zoom in people's windows to see their cats, the way I can see a woman walking down the street, get so much facial detail and even see the brand of water bottle she's carrying... well, after the novelty of this (admittedly cool) technology wears off, I'm hoping I'm not the only one that finds it more than just a little creepy.

    May 31, 2007 7:56 AM
  • Shawn Oster said:

    I don't find it that big of a deal.  These are public places where anyone could have seen said people walking out of strip clubs, into adult books stories, etc.  It's perfectly legal for me or anyone else to take video or pictures from these public places, including Google.  In fact you often have to educate police officers on this matter, such as Thomas Hawk has done many times.

    What strikes me as funny is people's imagined importance.  Who really cares if you're caught on camera walking into or out of a place?  If you are that concerned then you shouldn't have been there in the first place.  The whole concept of "privacy in public" is an illusion.  I can hire a private detective to tail you and legally get much better pictures of you throughout your day.  I can be out with my friends at a bachlour party and while taking pictures of the groom in front of the Lucky Lady accidently get you in the shot as you're walking out.  Then I post all my pictures on flickr and *bam* there you are, in public, on flickr, visiting a house of ill-repute.

    Life is stranger than the imagined "Big Brother".  I've been in airports on a different contient and bumped into people I haven't seen for a decade.  I was just in D.C. and while sitting at a cafe in the Smithsonian bumped into my wife's high school English teacher, and both of us are from Colorado.  It also happened to be the one teacher my in-laws knew well and so everyone chatted it up.  It's not random pictures on the Internet that you have to worry about, it's life and the weird curve balls it throws you.

    Lastly, please close your blinds anyway, if you're doing something you don't want captured on video or film then it's probably something we don't want to see with our bare eyes either.  And put some pants on.

    May 31, 2007 11:24 AM
  • Mike said:


    Would you feel comfortable if I just camped out on the street and took pictures through your windows all day? Maybe I'm not breaking the law by doing so, but I am probably doing something that you don't like. If you complain, is it ok for me to just say, "Shut your blinds then!" Now take that and multiply it...Google is doing something 300 million people probably don't like. Legal? Yes. Appropriate and responsible? No.

    May 31, 2007 11:31 AM
  • Shawn, how did you know I blog without pants on?

    May 31, 2007 5:28 PM
  • But my point really was that Microsoft respects people's privacy, because it spent a LOT of money to redact personally identifiable information from their street-level data. So I can trust that Microsoft's going to respect me when it comes to the way they store data. On the other hand, Google is content to store my search history, my browsing history, pictures of me walking around my house, my license plate... whatever.

    Google doesn't respect its users, and it should be getting the same lesson in respect that Microsoft got a number of years ago. But they're not. I wonder what line they'll have to cross before it happens.

    May 31, 2007 5:36 PM
  • I'm obviously in a little bit of a carefree mood as I am going to offer my personal opinion on one

    June 8, 2007 3:18 PM
  • justin said:

    soooooooooooooo its just showing how trashy this country really is and if people think its embarrasing then dont do it

    July 13, 2007 8:38 AM