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Google Begins Blurring Faces In Street View

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the middle-ground-in-range-of-both-sides'-fire dept.

Privacy 170

mytrip notes a News.com article reporting that Google has begun blurring faces in its Street View service, which has spawned privacy concerns since its introduction last year. Google has been working for a couple of years to advance the state of the art of face recognition. Quoting News.com: 'The technology uses a computer algorithm to scour Google's image database for faces, then blurs them, said John Hanke, director of Google Earth and Google Maps, in an interview at the Where 2.0 conference...' Google wrote about the program in their Lat/Long blog."

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Anonymity (4, Interesting)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395830)

This is the nice thing about living in a town no one cares about/knows about.

Re:Anonymity (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396166)

Yah, I too live in a small town that Google Street View will never get to. But what I really like about our little town is how much personality it has! I mean, just the other day I saw a couple of college kids driving around down in a little car with this big metal pole with a weird round black thing on top of it sticking out the middle of the roof . Those crazy kids! Must've been some weird fraternity prank or something.

Re:Anonymity (1)

mackil (668039) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396356)

This is the nice thing about living in a town no one cares about/knows about.
Don't feel too safe there. I live in a really small town myself, and we had the Google car drive on through it. Beware!!

Re:Anonymity (1)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397210)

I'm sure they'll get to us eventually. We're in the only semi-populated area left in the state that hasn't been done yet.

Re:Anonymity (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396552)

Along with the peace and quiet, friendly attitude at local businesses, etc etc etc

Kudos to Google! (5, Funny)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395836)

It's been awhile since a Google post on Slashdot has focused on the company improving our privacy. Good work!

Re:Kudos to Google! (4, Funny)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395856)

Well, I don't know... the one about blanking out maps of China sure seems to improve privacy.

Re:Kudos to Google! (3, Funny)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395940)

They let Chinese people read /. ? (just a joke in case anyone is itching to use some mod points.)

Re:Kudos to Google! (3, Interesting)

nbert (785663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396108)

Ignoring the sarcasm: There's a big difference between a country requesting to blur out parts and individuals not wanting to appear in certain areas. It's a good thing that they blur out faces and I was quite surprised that they didn't consider it before Street View launched.

IMO governments have to be as transparent as possible for a good reason. It's a different story if you as a "normal" person walk by a brothel or sit in a park (half-) naked. It all depends on the time the google truck passes and I don't see a reason why we have a right to see these people the moment they were photographed...

Re:Kudos to Google! (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397344)

IMO governments have to be as transparent as possible for a good reason. It's a different story if you as a "normal" person walk by a brothel or sit in a park (half-) naked. It all depends on the time the google truck passes and I don't see a reason why we have a right to see these people the moment they were photographed...
The government should be as transparent as possible because it is of and for the public.
Walking by a brothel or sitting in a park (half-)naked also happens to be in public.

Why wouldn't "we have a right to see these people the moment they were photographed..." in public?

Re:Kudos to Google! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23397692)

What makes you think they didn't consider it? RTFA. They enhanced the technology to make it usable to their situation, which took a considerable amount of time and effort.

Re:Kudos to Google! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395982)

I'm curious why they don't just blur the entire picture.

I only use street-view to figure out what building to look for, or what a particular intersection looks like... I don't need extreme detail for that.

Does anyone really need high-res (able to identify people and license plates) pics in streetview?

Re:Kudos to Google! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23396090)

It would also be nice if the house in the street view was actually the street number you input. There is a picture of a house with the number clearly marked as 425, but i searched for house number 427...

Re:Kudos to Google! (5, Funny)

njcoder (657816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396206)

Well, most people could probably care less about faces. As long as stuff like this [google.com] shows up from time to time.

Re:Kudos to Google! (1)

hamisht (197412) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396610)

Well, what's the problem with this? It's not like their faces need blurring or anything...

Re:Kudos to Google! (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396630)

They may have to develop a new recognition tool to blur things like that. Nice link.

Re:Kudos to Google! (5, Funny)

njcoder (657816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397060)

They may have to develop a new recognition tool
Yes!

to blur things like that.
No!

Re:Kudos to Google! (5, Funny)

DreamingReal (216288) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396756)

I agree completely. [google.com] That was taken across the street from my Dad's house. I think I really need to visit my old man more often.

WOW! (1)

alexandreracine (859693) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396920)

Where is the world is th... ho wait...

Re:Kudos to Google! (1)

njcoder (657816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397082)

Ha, that's too funny!

Re:Kudos to Google! (1)

old and new again (985238) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397616)

so lol, if you look at the previou spics, you see she saw the gogle truck coming and that she prepared herself, too bad she missed the pic lol

Re:Kudos to Google! (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397168)

Well, most people couldn't probably care less about faces. As long as stuff like this [google.com] shows up from time to time.
There, fixed it for you.

Re:Kudos to Google! (2, Insightful)

fmobus (831767) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397662)

On a slightly off-topic note. This picture was taken on "Escondido Road". "Escondido" is Portuguese (and also Spanish?) for "hidden" - which they aren't anymore =)

Re:Kudos to Google! (1)

Traiano (1044954) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397066)

For the record, they're not improving our privacy. They're removing a feature that harmed it.

blurred post! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395846)

jngpu gurz hfr fbzr erirefvoyr zrgubq yvxr ebg13, gubfr abbof

Re:blurred post! (1)

ActionDesignStudios (877390) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396820)

The 'ebg13' gave your post away to me. Rot13 has win.

Back to anonimity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395858)

I guess these girls [divinecaroline.com] are happy to be blurred.

Other uses for this technology (4, Interesting)

muellerr1 (868578) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395882)

It would be cool if there were an option on sites like Facebook or Flickr to blur the faces on my photos for anyone but my friends.

With technology like this, I wonder how far away Google Image Search is from being able to search image content?

I'm going off to buy a domain.. (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396002)

.. blurryfaceporn.com

Re:Other uses for this technology (2, Informative)

taybay (935207) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396186)

Google has already added a face search feature to image search. It's not too shabby either. I'm sure they're looking into other options as well.

Re:Other uses for this technology (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396752)

They could get recaptcha to use their images maybe?

I've not really used StreetView as it doesn't do the UK yet AFAIK. However I noticed that I can view peoples car plates and the occupants enough to recognise them ... has there been any fallout from this yet, StreetView divorces, prosecutions (eg for soliciting) and the like?

Re:Other uses for this technology (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397110)

Content-based image retrieval was something that received a lot of attention in academia around 5 years ago. Everyone working in computer vision or image processing seemed to have a CBIR system... and yet, for some reason, none of these systems made it into the mainstream. The accuracy wasn't bad, either. Maybe it just takes someone with Google's clout to do it - but if they do eventually do it, they would not be the first to come up with the techniques.

Oh, thank goodness! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395888)

For a second there, I was worried that all those poor people had seen the ring. [obrasilero.com]

Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (1, Insightful)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395922)

Sort-of off topic, but also sort-of on topic...
If you have an out of focus picture, can you manipulate the image mathematically to put it "in focus" or is there some information lost in the out-of-focusness so you can't do this.
And if so, with the appropriate app, will you be able to un-blur the people's faces in Google Street View?

default (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395996)

If you have an out of focus picture, can you manipulate the image mathematically to put it "in focus" or is there some information lost in the out-of-focusness so you can't do this.

A:Yes


And if so, with the appropriate app, will you be able to un-blur the people's faces in Google Street View?

A:Yes

Do you have difficulty with multiple choice exams? (4, Funny)

hobbit (5915) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396614)

Q: Option A or option B?
A: Yes.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (1)

SkyMunky (249995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396052)

You cannot get back the information that has been lost, IF it has been lost. "Swirling" doesn't remove much information, but significant blurring does. What you would need is the computer that is used in Bladerunner and many other TV/movie scenes that will recreate the data for you, giving infinite zoom ability. These computers also can remove *all* noise from audio and recreate all the underlying sounds.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (4, Informative)

Lobster Quadrille (965591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396074)

You can't add pixels that aren't there, and an out of focus picture is effectively a lower resolution.

You can, however, apply statistical analysis and AI learning techniques to guess the likely locations of pixels. In that way, you can sharpen a photo somewhat, though it may be inexact. My understanding is that contextual analysis is the next step- if you have pictures of a person and a blurry person, and have more pictures of that person and less-blurry people, you can make predictions about who the fuzzy people are.

Of course, I wear a beard so that I'll always be fuzzy.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396794)

A related question. If you had a blur applied to a video, would it be possible to use information from a lot of frames to end up building a 'deblurred' single frame?

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23396974)

Yes. In fact, their are quite sophisticated tools for doing exactly that. The simplest example I know of is the channel logo removal filter in movie players/video editors. I think mplayer might have it; not sure. More advanced NLV editors have tools to lift objects out of a background, into a separate foreground layer where they can be animated, by reconstructing what should be behind it.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (5, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397256)

You can't add pixels that aren't there, and an out of focus picture is effectively a lower resolution.
No, it isn't. Think about an unfocused camera - all the light is still hitting film/CCD, it is just spread out. So from an information theory point of view you haven't lost any data, you just put it into another form. If you consider what would be a single point of light, the energy in that point is spread out in a normal distribution (aka bell curve, aka gaussian). So the blurred image is just all these Gaussians functions overlayed on top of each other. Computer blurring algorithms do pretty much the same thing.

From a signal processing perspective, this is the same as convolving with a Gaussian. And if you take the Fourier transform of that blurred image, you get the transform of the image multiplied by the transform of the Gaussian (which is just another Gaussian). From there all you have to do is divide by this Gaussian, take the inverse transform, and walla, you have the desired non-blurred image. This is called a deconvolution [wikipedia.org] , and I've written code to do this for an image processing class.

There are some caveats. You have to guess how blurred the image is - what focal length is and what not. Noise and compression can kill you, so you need to filter those out first (or limit your deconvolution filter to low frequency content). In addition at the edges of the image (or edge of the blur boundary) information is genuinely lost as the gaussian falls outside the boundary and is discarded.

Focus Magic [focusmagic.com] is a commercial package that refocuses blurred images, and they have some interesting sample photos.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (4, Interesting)

pavon (30274) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397392)

Oh, one other caveat, is that when you quantize the blurred image (assign each pixels a discrete, say 24-bit, value), you will also loose some information.

Furthermore, I should mention that given the size of peoples faces, and the amount of blur that Google is likely to use, the entire blurred section will be near enough to the edge to loose significant information, so it is unlikely that much recovery will be possible.

So, nothing I said was really applicable to this situation :) I was just surprised myself to learn that a blurred image is not the same as a lower resolution image, and so I thought I'd share.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (1)

op12 (830015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397508)

I was just surprised myself to learn that a blurred image is not the same as a lower resolution image, and so I thought I'd share.
Since I don't have mod points, I figured I'd reply and say that was actually pretty interesting, and I'm surprised as well.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (4, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397314)

You can't add pixels that aren't there, and an out of focus picture is effectively a lower resolution.

You can, however, apply statistical analysis and AI learning techniques to guess the likely locations of pixels. In that way, you can sharpen a photo somewhat, though it may be inexact. My understanding is that contextual analysis is the next step- if you have pictures of a person and a blurry person, and have more pictures of that person and less-blurry people, you can make predictions about who the fuzzy people are.

This is wrong. An out of focus picture is not lower resolution. All the original information is still there, it's just been smeared in a mathematically consistent manner - something called the point spread function of the lens [wikipedia.org] at that degree of misfocus. It's very possible to mathematically focus a misfocused picture [focusmagic.com] after it's been shot. The main barriers are not knowing the particular lens' exact point spread function, sensor noise (the de-convolution spreads the sensor noise to adjacent pixels), and grid resolution. But the site I linked to shows you can still get pretty decent results using a generic PSF.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396130)

A brief note on transfer functions and linearity - yes if you had access to the visual transform they are using to blur the faces you most certainly could un-blur them - assuming the transform is linear or could be roughly estimated to be linear. Of course to do that - you would need to find all the faces and the while facial recognition software has come a long way I don't think there is anything out there good enough to pick up blurred faces

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23396410)

If you really want to hide something in a photo, cover it with a single color and flatten the picture. Blurring can't be completely undone, since it destroys information... but depending on *how* blurred it is, it can be at least partially reconstructed.

Re:Can you focus out-of-focus pictures (1)

lakeland (218447) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396492)

Generally you can't perfectly reverse a blur operation, it is lossy. It all comes down to which algorithm Google choose to use.

As for which program, you're going to get the best results with a custom-written filter. All the standard photo editors accept custom plugins so any program can be used. Gimp even allows you to write the custom plugin in a scripting language (python?)

Google can choose how well this will work. They're not a bunch of idiots who have never heard of matrix transposition. You can bet they will choose whatever they think is the best compromise between keeping the blurred image true to the original and preventing reversing the operation.

Public? (1, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395992)

Because, you know, the LAST thing I want to happen when I'm out on a public street is to be seen by anyone.

Invisible watchers... (5, Funny)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396360)

Because, you know, the LAST thing I want to happen when I'm out on a public street is to be seen by millions of invisible people hiding in the Google van.

O HI, I FIXED UR POST, KTHX.

Swirley-faced guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395994)

What do they do when they see swirly-faced guy [belfasttelegraph.co.uk] walking down the street?

Print a giant face over your storefront (4, Interesting)

SkyMunky (249995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396006)

Print a giant face over your storefront/building just to see what happens.

Re:Print a giant face over your storefront (4, Interesting)

ReverendLoki (663861) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396076)

I was just thinking how well this would work with reproductions of faces.

The smiling, friendly faces of your local anchorpersons on that billboard for the nightly news? Blurred.

How about that chimp staring out from that zoo as the Google van went past?

And what about the mannequins in the storefront window?

Re:Print a giant face over your storefront (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396832)

Print a giant face over your storefront/building just to see what happens.
The face-finding algorithm might have a maximum size of the face in the picture, so if the face covers the whole building, it would get ignored. (How many people walk right up to the Google van and stick their face in front of the camera? Prank idea!)

However, you might be able to get around this by covering the front of your building with hundreds of life-size photos of people's faces.

Boy that would be creepy.

Blurred beyond recognition? (4, Funny)

DaveM753 (844913) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396026)

Damn...there goes my 15 minutes of fame.

Re:Blurred beyond recognition? (1)

Hangeron (314487) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397524)

Well, now you have 15 pixels of fame.

What privacy concerns? (5, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396060)

Google has begun blurring faces in its Street View service, which has spawned privacy concerns since its introduction last year.

My understanding is that people in public should have no expectations of privacy. Or is that just a U.S. thing? Furthermore, as their algorithms get better, will Google skip blurring the faces of famous people? They certainly have no expectations of privacy in public.

Re:What privacy concerns? (5, Funny)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396078)

My understanding is that people in public should have no expectations of privacy. Or is that just a U.S. thing?
Actually, in the rest of the more civilized world, you're not allowed to look at people without their permission. Just one more way in which the US is lagging behind!

Re:What privacy concerns? (5, Insightful)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396250)

My understanding is that people in public should have no expectations of privacy.


That's an overly simplified view. Are you saying that in public it should be legal to be able to take pictures of anybody from any angle/viewpoint? (eg: upskirt)
Can I take my parabolic microphone and start recording people's conversations 100 meters away and then post the conversations on the Internet?
Why can't people walk around with no clothes on in public if they aren't doing anything weird or being "sexual" (whatever that means)?
If there are no expectations of privacy, then what's the problem? (sarcasm)

I would modify your "no expectations of privacy in public" to "reduced expectations of privacy in public"

Re:What privacy concerns? (1)

PieceofLavalamp (1244192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396636)

But they aren't using a parabolic microphone, more like 2 cans with string between them. At least quality wise. I mean i had a hard time reading the giant sign on the Cleveland Browns Stadium.

And to be honest i would have no problem with people walking around naked. But they shouldn't expect me not to stare at them. And the upskirt stuff, yes crosses a privacy line but thats done very stealthily, taking pictures from a giant van with cameras on top of it doesn't really resemble stealth.
I agree with your points but i think this situation is different

Re:What privacy concerns? (4, Insightful)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396676)

You're getting away from the point though. Google isn't taking up-skirt pictures. They aren't using a telephoto lens. They aren't recording private conversations. And no one is walking around naked! Google is taking pictures from a normal vantage point.

Are we going to start going after the newspapers and TV stations too? After all, they take plenty of videos and pictures of places where people and standing around in the background and may not realize that they're being photographed or taped.

Re:What privacy concerns? (2, Insightful)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396846)

...and to bring up another point, I just took a vacation to New Orleans. I took several pictures of my friends in Jackson Square, and there were plenty of random people standing around in the background. Did I somehow violate their privacy by posting my vacation pictures on Flickr?

Re:What privacy concerns? (2, Interesting)

JanneM (7445) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396890)

He's completely on point. The parent poster asked if we should have any expectations of privacy while in public. He shows that yes, we do have some expectations on privacy; the discussion is thus about what those expectations should be. You can't, for instance, take a picture of somebody, then use it for commercial purposes without their explicit permission (look up "release form"), and Google is probably dangerously close to be over that line already.

A newspaper and a television station has very free rein publishing what they want - as long as they can argue it's news. A newspaper can for instance not just take a shot of someone on the street, then use that shot for an advertisement (or sell it to an ad agency) - their relative freedom of using other persons likeness is limited to actual news.

Re:What privacy concerns? (2, Insightful)

BasharTeg (71923) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397368)

Google is taking pictures from a normal vantage point.

Yeah, a normal vantage point if you're standing on top of a van looking into everyone's backyard.

Re:What privacy concerns? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23397406)

In inner city view, there is no need to blur the faces.
Those people all look alike anyway

Re:What privacy concerns? (3, Informative)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396688)

That's an overly simplified view. Are you saying that in public it should be legal to be able to take pictures of anybody from any angle/viewpoint? (eg: upskirt)

Interesting that you should say that [bbc.co.uk] ... as this was a recent BBC article I read. And it's not even "upskirt", it's just taking pictures of peoples behinds. Of course, the best part is the last sentence...

He might have some explaining to do when he finally gets home.

Re:What privacy concerns? (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396710)

It depends on which cases you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy with.
You have reasonable expectation of privacy if you cover it up, or if you are talking quietly. Standing in public outside for anyone to photograph is no reasonable expectation.
Walking around naked has nothing to do with privacy, instead some places have "indecent exposure" laws. Those places that don't will use private property (e.g. a mall can ask you to leave if they don't like what you are wearing) or public nuisance (streaking or purposeful disruption) laws where they apply.

Re:What privacy concerns? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23397236)

You have reasonable expectation of privacy if you cover it up
So what do you do when the camera-owners ban you from exercising that privacy?

Over in the UK this became a very real question years ago:

Colleges http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/nov/24/highereducation.education1/ [guardian.co.uk] banning hoodies, veils and hijabs because they allow you to enforce your expectation of privacy.
So too have shopping centers http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article521620.ece/ [timesonline.co.uk] with strong government support for extending the ban to all public places.

Re:What privacy concerns? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396776)

Why can't people walk around with no clothes on in public if they aren't doing anything weird or being "sexual" (whatever that means)?
How you came to connect showing their privates with privacy I don't quite get. Those exposing themselves do it willingly, so it's not a matter of privacy (whether you're allowed to keep something private) but rather what others should be required to be exposed to. I think people should have the freedom to life their own lives as they please, but there's a limit to how much you can impose it on others. I'm a bit divided on this because the public is what connects all other places together, and you shouldn't have to be exposed to everything disgusting yet legal (not that nudity is disgusting) just to shop groceries. It's another thing if you go to a nude beach and find nude people...

Re:What privacy concerns? (1)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397724)

"Up your skirt" (or in any other way under your clothes) is not public, it doesn't matter if you are in a bedroom, or in the town square, it is assuredly private and one reasonably has an expectation of privacy in that regard.

Your recording situation, IANAL but I'd say it's no different than telephoto, provided the subjects are in public. It is, granted, a little grey though if the conversation is specifically being held in a manner which conveys privacy (hushed voices, participants obviously not wanting to be heard).

Your nudity situation, has nothing to do with privacy, the word you seek is decency. The city/state/country has an expectation of what it calls decency (sometimes masquerading as health and safety) in public and legislates such that this is adhered to, your or anybody else's expectation of privacy is a totally separate thing.

Re:What privacy concerns? (1)

MP3Chuck (652277) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396576)

Just because you shouldn't have any *expectations* of privacy in public doesn't mean you shouldn't *deserve* any should someone choose to provide it to you.

Re:What privacy concerns? (3, Insightful)

joe_bruin (266648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397336)

The expectation for most of us is that there is no random, permanent, publicly displayed record of where we go and what we do, regardless of whether we do it in public or not. That is, in public we don't have privacy, but we generally have anonymity, and street view busts this. Yes, it's entirely possible that someone will take a picture of you and it will end up on the news or the internet. But for people doing something that is generally not newsworthy but they may want to keep private, there is an expectation that this will not happen. This is the same reasoning that makes people opposed to RFID tracking. Yes, someone can follow you around in their car and make notes of what you do, but that is different from a systematic logging of where you are which could happen at any time and any place.

What if a Google camera catches you: ...buying drugs? ...walking into your ex girlfriend's house? ...entering an abortion clinic? ...picking your nose? ...hanging out in front of a gay bar? ...attending a communist party meeting? ...golfing on Sunday? ...doing something you don't want your friends and neighbors finding out about?

Most of these things may not mean anything to you, but they may mean a lot to some people. Now, if Google announced "we will be taking pictures of this street at 4pm on Monday, don't be there if you don't want your picture taken", that would be a perfectly reasonable solution to this whole thing.

Re:What privacy concerns? (4, Insightful)

croddy (659025) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397568)

It is a gross oversimplification to say that once in public, one should have no expectation of privacy.

People have to go into public to do normal things. This does not mean that any level whatsoever of data gathering on your public activities is acceptable. Certainly would you see the privacy implications if Google were to attach a GPS unit to your car and record where you drive -- sure, you're driving in public, but that does not mean it would be okay for Google to record detailed records of your trips. Likewise it would be inappropriate for Google to follow you with a video camera. Perhaps you don't, but a lot of folks feel that intermittent still images taken by Google's drive-by surveillance crews are also too invasive.

The advancement of photographic and image processing technology has introduced privacy concerns that existing laws could not foresee. The ease with which massive amounts of personally invasive information can be gathered, analyzed, and then distributed in bulk has changed the way we should think about privacy -- even privacy in public.

Face Suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23396070)

I'm starting work on a full body face suit. I think I'll also line it with tinfoil - can't hurt.

Awwww (5, Funny)

DeadPanDan (1165901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396134)

They should have used Laughing Man logos. You blew it Google.

Re:Awwww (2, Funny)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397214)

Methinks they were waiting for 04-01-2009

In related news (0)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396152)

Microsoft patents the idea of putting a virtual bag over peoples' heads to conceal their identity. Says project manager Chris Farley, "We've been testing the technology on the faces of various women on the NOW website, and it really does the job."

Other applications? (4, Funny)

Digestromath (1190577) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396158)

Could these enhanced algorithms be used to blur the faces of the hideous women I bring home from the bar? If not in real time, I'll accept them being blurred in my memory.

Re:Other applications? (3, Funny)

thereofone (1287878) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396312)

Try improving your Alcohol algorithm, I hear the Tequila sets work very well but you might have to apply Lime and Salt.

Slashdot has this story totally wrong (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23396164)

Google isn't blurring faces in the photos, but is actually blurring people's faces. Somehow, the Googlebotmobile blurs peoples' faces as it drives by, and so far no one has figured out a way to undo it.

they might blur the pictures shown (1)

crazybit (918023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396218)

but I am sure the "un-blurred" original ones are still in their servers.

is this the best way to protect people's privacy?

Opportunity becons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23396240)

... place a banner ad over the blurred image. (I've just patented the idea)

BTW captcha was 'venial' .... so amazingly appropriate

People can be recognized by their clothes etc (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23396346)

People can be recognized by their clothes and build and hands and shoes and bags and cars and other people they are with and the locations they visit usually and...

Let me get the point... (2, Informative)

Tangamandapiano (1087091) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396348)

Aside from time factor (I suppose it works 24h/day), what's the big legal difference from what the TV programs do when they show random people, in scenes from the cities or so?

I'm so relieved! (5, Funny)

dsouza42 (1151071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396362)

Looks like Google also cares a about horse privacy [google.com] . That's really great! I woudn't want anyone recognizing my horse if he's caught doing something embarassing out in the street.

Re:I'm so relieved! (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396502)

Interestingly, while the horse is blurred, the people's faces aren't!

Re:I'm so relieved! (3, Funny)

ChocoBean (890202) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397306)

The Google Algorithm obvious has mistaken the horse's face for Sarah Jessica Parker's.

so where are Brin and Page's houses? (2, Insightful)

EllynGeek (824747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396532)

And kids, and vehicles, and visitors...this is such utter crap. "Do no evil" indeed. You can't just say "do no evil", you have to actually do no evil to have any credibility.

Re:so where are Brin and Page's houses? (1)

BasharTeg (71923) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397498)

This is generally my opinion on the topic too. All of the Google apologists jump in to tell us how we shouldn't expect privacy in public and how Google isn't doing anything illegal.

The point is, having someone film every inch of the country so they can make a buck on advertising isn't a "good" thing to do. It raises privacy concerns because while I know people can see me in public, I can reasonably expect that people aren't recording me for the simple reason that there isn't any great motivation to record me, and I am just one guy out of hundreds of millions of Americans. It would take the resources of a multi-billion dollar international corporation or national government to employ a sufficient amount of public recording to impact my life. Google is a multi-billion dollar international corporation who is recording the public to make a profit.

I'd like to hear the Google apologists' opinions on the insane BigBrother camera monitoring in the UK. The UK's (supposed) motivation is to stop crime, not to sell advertisements, so I'd have to think the UK's goals are a bit more noble and yet despite that I don't find what they're doing to be "good", in fact I'd say it's pretty damned evil.

So if you're one of those Google apologists who has no problem with Google filming every street in America and recording all kinds of additional information that StreetView wasn't intended to record, I hope you're okay with federal and state governments deploying UK style blanket video coverage of public places, and with other companies you may have less favorable opinions of like say... Microsoft, filming your houses, into your windows, and by chance into your open doors, and backyards.

However, I do appreciate what Google is doing in blurring the faces. This is a good first step. However, one of the fundamental flaws I see with StreetView is that it seems to be filmed from a higher height than any human I've ever met. I have 6 foot high fences because generally that keeps most people who aren't standing within a few feet of my fence from seeing into my front courtyard or back yard. Yet Google films StreetView from such a height that you often see right over peoples' fences into their backyards, where people have a reasonable expectation that nobody is going out of their way to film them for commercial gain. So I personally would like to see Google change StreetView to film from the perspective of an average adult male standing up or the average height of the driver of a motor vehicle. I don't see any legitimate reason to peer into peoples' back yards. Even if it is legal, I have to say I don't consider that "good". It comes off as quite evil to me.

Google has been developing this for some time. (4, Informative)

lhaeh (463179) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396556)

This article [blogoscoped.com] from a year ago shows that Google has had public implementations of facial recognition for some time. Simply appending &imgtype=face to a Google image search URL will just show images of faces.

Does Google ever really throw information away?! (1)

hobbit (5915) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396564)

The technology uses a computer algorithm to scour Google's image database for faces, then blurs them having first stored the location and probable identity of each.
There, fixed that for ya.

Why not blank? (3, Insightful)

nameer (706715) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396664)

Why blur? Haven't we learned yet that the goal is no information, not less information? O.K., this is probably not one of those cases where someone will go to the trouble of trying to deconvolute the image. But really, just drop a white circle over the face and be done with it. Blurring gains nothing and leaves trace information.

Re:Why not blank? (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397310)

Because this looks nicer. Also, the blurring stuff was all done on stuff where there is a finite set of stuff to start with (fonts, spacing, colours) and then working from there. It's much harder to do that with faces. I think.

Censoring (0, Flamebait)

lilfields (961485) | more than 6 years ago | (#23396866)

<sarcasm>First it was censoring in China and now they are censoring in America...Google may as well be run by the Bolshevists</sarcasm>

Took them long enough (1)

Puffy Director Pants (1242492) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397192)

I've got enough qualms about Google doing this as it is, I don't see any reason why they should have started doing this without having this sort of thing in place from the start.

Re:Took them long enough (1)

1000baseFX (120418) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397650)

Why the concern, that there bluring or that they have recognition software? In the US at least, You don't have the right to privacy in a public venue such as the street in this sense, I can snap pictures of people all day long in a public place and there is nothing they can due about it. It's how I use the pics that can be an issue, but even then only partly.

The Japanese Use A Similar Program (1, Flamebait)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397228)

To scour porn for vaginas and penises and blur them. But they don't blur anuses and explosive fecal matter.

Why doesn't google... (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397286)

Use their awesome technology to just remove people from streetview entirely? If they removed cars and people it would be a lot easier to view the actual streets (and stuff that should be on a map.).

< hat tinfoil=yes > Most likely this is just a public beta for their super-secret face recognition technology so they'll be able to track all our movements over the web.< /hat >

Privacy exists in private places, not in public (2, Interesting)

aristotle-dude (626586) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397562)

Why do people expect privacy on a public street? It is called the "public" for a reason. I do not feel that Google should bother censoring anything that occurs in the public eye.

what about fixing the color (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#23397602)

Too bad privacy is the big thing & not color. Then, they could have done something about the horrible red reflections covering all the photos. But, fixing color isn't the big thing.

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