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Switzerland's Data Protection Watchdog Wants Street View Disabled

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the not-so-neutral dept.

Privacy 257

glow-in-the-dark writes "The Swiss office for Data Protection has asked Google to turn off Street View within the country because it doesn't meet the conditions demanded when permission was given to go ahead with the photography. Google answered privacy concerns with the following points (I'm translating them from German; here's an automated translation): 'Google will publish in advance where it is going to record the images, so you can act accordingly.' Do they want you to hide? Where is the real obligation here? 'Google has made masking the images of people and car license plates obligatory.' I think this is where trouble starts, because their permission to go ahead appears to have been dependent on how well they did this. I have browsed one particular town as an experiment and was quite quickly able to find unmasked faces. This means that either the algorithm they use doesn't work, or that it is done manually and they've fallen behind (in which case they should not have put up the images). 'Although a picture of a home is generally not covered under Data Protection, Google has agreed to remove them if asked. Follow the same process as removing a person.' I think it wouldn't be half as bad if the pictures weren't taken with a high enough resolution to see inside a house. In short, Google has not been given the easy ride it had in other countries regarding Street View. I actually suspect there is more to come."

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Screw switzerland (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155557)

Just upload my street already.

Am I really the first poster? What's the secret? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155581)

Maybe Switzerland is trying to bite back after losing their secrecy battle with the IRS.

Re:Am I really the first poster? What's the secret (1)

Spliffster (755587) | about 5 years ago | (#29156495)

I am swiss, this has nothing to do with with UBS or the IRS (UBS is a private company, not switzerland).

We do actually have quiet some strict privacy laws, but some are getting abandoned due to us pressure.

-S

small blessing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155601)

Kinda glad that they missed my street, so I don't have to worry about this.

Re:small blessing (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 5 years ago | (#29156497)

Kinda glad that they missed my street, so I don't have to worry about this.

Same here. The magic van drove past the end of my (dead-end) street, and didn't trouble to go down it. Suits me just fine, so I'm not complaining.

Only anonymous posters? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155645)

Four posts on this topic so far, and all from AC.

If we're all so concerned about regulation of corporations by governments, maybe we need a meta-government [metagovernment.org]

Call me paranoid... (2, Funny)

SebZero (1051264) | about 5 years ago | (#29155653)

... but I'm just not happy with google going around streets and taking pictures of my house, my car, etc. Of course I've put photos up on the internet of the house, the cars, the inside of the house, loved ones - but that's stuff that *I've* posted (and on services that - theoretically - only an elected few can view). It's not illegal in Australia (hell, is it technically illegal anywhere yet?) and I'm sure it fits into google's "do no evil", but while it's not "evil", if an individual person (rather than a computerised camera car) put photos up of my house it's plain creepy. Big cities full of stores, monuments, various points of interest - fine - driving all the way out to where I live and showing the world I've neglected my lawn - not so much.

Re:Call me paranoid... (2, Informative)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 5 years ago | (#29155677)

Then maybe the better solution would be to not streetview map residential areas and stick to cities, because actually getting a street level view of where I should end up has crtainly saved my ass several times.

Re:Call me paranoid... (2, Insightful)

Reaperducer (871695) | about 5 years ago | (#29155819)

Your proposal makes no sense. Millions of people live in cities. If someone uses Google Street View to find a particular Best Buy, they will also find my home, since the Best Buy is on the first floor and there are offices and residences above it.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 5 years ago | (#29155913)

The proposal makes no sense because I was trying to accomodate people who have a problem with pictures taken by a bigass van with 360deg cameras on top. It's not like ninjas are sneaking around or anything.

Re:Call me paranoid... (0, Redundant)

gnick (1211984) | about 5 years ago | (#29156075)

I'm not arguing that anyone has an expectation of privacy for people simply viewing the front of their house, but if you live on the 5th floor of a building with a Best Buy on the ground level please accept that there will be more people who can conveniently view the first floor of your building than the front of my town-house. Probably more people just walking past not to mention things like the Google van. Hell, still shots or videos might wind up on commercials. If that wasn't obvious when you moved in and you're (for some reason) paranoid about surveillance on the retail establishment downstairs, maybe you'll think through things more when you next move.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 5 years ago | (#29156571)

Why is someone who lives in the city not worthy of protection unlike everyone else? Some people live beside shops and museums. Do they not deserve online privacy?

A lot of crime is committed by drug users, the homeless, etc. These aren't people that research their next hit online. These are people that wake up needing a fix and get straight into stealing form shops and homes. I've volunteered at a homeless charity and I can assure you most of the people breaking into homes just do it. A lot of them prefer shops because it's easier to sell new goods to people. Perhaps shops should have online privacy and be the sole deciders on what parts of their shops are displayed online?

Anyone rich enough to live in a Mansion always runs the risk of people planning hits on their property. These properties are too far away from roads for street view to be of any real use. If anything, the satellite view would make it easier for planning a crime on these properties.

Street View poses no real threat. But between the people afraid of anything new and those who think their junk is actually valuable to other people, it will have a hard time gaining acceptance.

Re:Call me paranoid... (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about 5 years ago | (#29155715)

The thing is, no one cares about your lawn.

The problem with the whole street view debate is that it's nothing that isn't seen.... from the street.... by every commuter. But because it's on the internet, it's somehow special now.

Re:Call me paranoid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29156141)

Yeah, it is a load of bullshit.

Somehow being on the internet is entirely different to any random person visiting and seeing your house.

Even worse is the labelling of any picture or video of kids online being child porn.
I remember someone was fucked by the law because they uploaded a video of their kid in a bath to show their family.
Or how about that Wikipedia mess when the music album was banned?
And lets not forget child modelling = child porn arguments. Funny how companies can legally sell this in the real world and not be judged even slightly, yet the instant it goes online, "FUKIN PEDO SCUM DIE FUKR"

I think it is about fucking time the law gets updated to deal with the internet instead of it being on a case-by-case basis.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29156503)

No. It's because it is one time frame standing there forever.

Imagine they make a photo just in that moment where you look stupidest or are jacking off and you can see it trough the window... or BOTH... with a child coming around the corner *just* at that moment.

Now usually, it's forgotten quickly, so it's a bit of shame maybe, and you're good again.

But on the net, it stays there forever. This blocks the natural mechanism of forgiveness of the human society. Every time someone looks at the picture, it's fresh again. Until they are used to it and think it's always that way. Which of course it is not.

That's the problem here. Like an elephant in the room. So stop distracting from it. (I know you were not doing it intentionally, but I hope I could point you to pointing at the elephant again. :)

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about 5 years ago | (#29156705)

Yes ... let's get rid of something useful to a large portion of society just so a few people that might suffer from being .. oh, I don't know .... stupid?? ... aren't impacted.

I use street view all the time. I use it to plan motorcycle rides so I know where the exits to a gas station are in relation to turn lanes. I've used it to look at neighborhoods before I buy a house so I don't waste my time having to go there with the realtor. I've used it to see where the ATM is at a bank so I know which entrance makes the most sense. I've used it to see where the entrance to a hotel is so I could figure out that I need to make a U-turn and was ready for it. I used it before going to visit my daughter at her new house so I figure out where her house was in the maze of suburban clones. I used it to help my wife visit a museum that was on the end of a road so she could plan where to meet her friends. Some of these places are in mixed commercial/residential areas. I wish the resolution was better so I could read street numbers and business signs.

Someone jacking off in front of an open window is stupid and probably deserves to be publicly humiliated to get him to stop it. Someone going into a porn shop should either not be embarrassed about it, or stop it. Someone worried about getting caught cheating deserves it just for being dishonest.

bullshit (1)

speedtux (1307149) | about 5 years ago | (#29156793)

But on the net, it stays there forever.

The photo doesn't "stay around forever". You can ask Google to remove photographs that portray you in a bad light.

That's the problem here. Like an elephant in the room.

If you're jacking off in front of your window without curtains, well, geez, that's a problem. In fact, it's probably a misdemeanor.

Google accidentally taking a picture of it and putting it on the web until you ask them to remove it is not a problem. In fact, they probably aren't even obligated to remove it, in particular if you get charged with indecent exposure.

Re:Call me paranoid... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 years ago | (#29156845)

But because it's on the internet, it's somehow special now.

Someone in the street randomly walking past your house is a momentary, transient thing. Any observations are made incidentally by a single person, if they happen to be looking at all, which most people won't anyway because they'd feel a bit embarassed if they were caught peering in through someone else's window.

Google is a commercial organisation, systematically collecting high resolution images of an entire area while the people doing it are safely hidden away inside a car and then storing those images in a permanent, searchable database that is accessible to anyone.

Can you really not see the difference between these two scenarios?

Google have always pushed the boundaries of what is reasonable behaviour in terms of data mining, but I think this time they have clearly gone too far and they're about to start feeling the resistance that has been brewing for a while now. Countries are trying to prohibit their actions by law. Perhaps more telling, whole villages of normal people are turning out to physically block the car because they don't want it spying on them. Google are even failing the obvious reasonable behaviour test of "Would people think it was acceptable if those Google staff went up to every home in person and took a high res camera shot through the front window?" Are you seriously claiming that if someone walked up to the front of your home in person and started snapping away through all your windows, maybe a shot down the side to where your kids are playing, noting down your car registration, and so on, you would have no problem with that? I suppose that's possible, but I think you're in a very small minority if that's true.

As usual, the law is not keeping pace with technology, but in an era of mass communication and enormous databases, we really do need to make sure we get serious privacy/personal data protections enshrined in law in the very near future. Very bad stuff is already happened to far too many people, and it's only going to get worse if governments and megacorps are allowed to continue on their quest to turn every citizen's life into rows in a database.

Re:Call me paranoid... (3, Insightful)

RickRussellTX (755670) | about 5 years ago | (#29155761)

(1) Why is it a problem when Google takes photos of your house? (2) What is your expectation of privacy regarding the portions of your property visible from a public street? (3) You say it's creepy when individuals put up pictures of your house. Has that happened? Have you tried to find out? If not, can you truly say that it is important to you?

This back-and-forth regarding publicly visible portions of private property is a huge mess. Either something is viewable from the street and therefore fodder for general photography, or its not. This singling out of Google is only going to create an unbearable enforcement mess when the next prima-donna Barbra Streisand type decides that they want to sue every tourist, amateur photographer and real estate company who might have *DARED* publish photos including some corner of their property.

Re:Call me paranoid... (4, Insightful)

Reaperducer (871695) | about 5 years ago | (#29155891)

It's only really messy in other parts of the world (In this case, Switzerland.) In the United States the courts have long ruled, and it is well established that pretty much anyone can take pictures of your home if they want as long as they're on public property (sidewalk, street, park, etc...) They can also take pictures of YOU if you are in public. Shock! Horror!

The problem is that Google caves in to the requests of amateur lawyers who have threatened to sue Google over publishing pictures of their homes or faces in Street View. From Google's point of view, it's easier and cheaper to blur things out. But from a public policy and rights perspective, it would have been better for the American people long-term if Google actually started fighting and winning these suits in order to shut the nutjobs up. If you don't want people to see you -- stay inside. If you don't want people to photograph your house, build a wall or buy out the neighbors to construct a massive lawn.

Of course, it isn't Google's job to fight these kind of fights. That's what newspapers are for, and is an example of the constant legal battles that newspapers are (mostly silently) fighting in court to protect the rights of the average American. Of course, then Google leeches the newspaper's content and makes money off of it, but that's a different argument.

And before I get a bunch of IANALs responding to this post, let me just say STFU. It's my job to know these sorts of things. Unless you're a lawyer or a judge who disagrees with all the briefings I've had with some of the nation's top attorneys on just this kind of matter, don't bother to respond.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 5 years ago | (#29156029)

Overall, pretty good post. But, you kinda screwed it up with "Of course, it isn't Google's job to fight these kind of fights. That's what newspapers are for,"

We are all aware that the world is changing. If it weren't TFA wouldn't even be a postable story.

The traditional newspapers are losing ground. They are losing readership, and they are losing revenues. (You might argue the "losing readership" - that's really subject for another discussion) Newspapers are still pretty powerful, but they are losing power.

Google is part of the system that is making newspapers irrelevant. So - we can argue, and maybe we SHOULD argue, that it really IS Google's job to fight these kind of fights.

Disclaimer: I'm not real sure that Google really IS the right company to fight these fights, I'm just pointing out that they might have an obligation to help solve problems created by their use of technology.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

speedtux (1307149) | about 5 years ago | (#29156825)

The problem is that Google caves in to the requests of amateur lawyers who have threatened to sue Google over publishing pictures of their homes or faces in Street View.

Google is a business. Having pictures of people in compromising situations hurts their reputation and it makes Google Streetview potentially offensive to their users. That's why they remove pictures even though the law doesn't technically require them to. That's not "caving in", it's a sound business decision.

It's my job to know these sorts of things.

You seem to understand the legal side already, but you evidently have trouble with the business side of things.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29155937)

I wish I had mod points.

Re:Call me paranoid... (3, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 5 years ago | (#29156189)

1) Why is it a problem when Google takes photos of your house?

Because they're going to publish those pictures online for millions, nay, billions of people to gawk at. You forget the scope of this.

(2) What is your expectation of privacy regarding the portions of your property visible from a public street?

My expectation is that only people who are on the street right now, will be able to see those portions. My expectation is that most people are not more than twelve feet tall.

(3) You say it's creepy when individuals put up pictures of your house. Has that happened? Have you tried to find out? If not, can you truly say that it is important to you?

This is Google we're talking about, not your local auctioneer. Their stated objective is to put the entire world up on Street View and danm in they have the ability to do so. Is my house up their? I honestly don't don't know as I've never used the danm thing. But I have seen enough Street View photographs to know that I never want to see my house up there.

You might be OK with the concept and execution of Google Street View. However, a lot of people most certainly are not happy. We don't want our houses plastered up on an easily indexed, location linked, photography database. We don't want twelve foot high cameras taking snapshots over our front lawn hedges.

Either something is viewable from the street and therefore fodder for general photography, or its not.

You're like someone arguing that ice cannot turn into water because you see no change while examining the individual molecules. The issue here has never bee the photographs themselves. It's been what Google is doing with them. You've inductively scaled up individual rights and freedoms into the monstrosity that is Street View. But of your logic here is valid, where is this going to end? What happens when Google decides to put your entire personal public history up on its very own page in the new Google Identity? Is that right?

No. Rights do not scale up. You cannot inductively grant rights, house photograph by house photograph, until someone has an indexed database of every home on earth and proceeds to publish it. True, you cannot find the one house, the one step in the process, where the enterprise became definitely wrong. But the result is wrong all the same. Like a phase change of matter, Google Street view took rights and concepts that were solid, and make them first watery and then entirely vaporous. You can't see this by looking at individual atoms, the houses being added, only by looking at the big picture.

Street View is wrong. Arguing about my house, or your house, is as pointless as arguing about raindrops in a thunderstorm. We are talking about everybody's home now. And no one has the right to do what Google is doing with them.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 5 years ago | (#29156641)

Because they're going to publish those pictures online for millions, nay, billions of people to gawk at.

What a load of shit.

Unless you live in a famous area (and therefore deal with a lot of people in person gawking at your area) then the odds of anyone outside of locals looking at your stupid little street are almost nil.

Seriously, why in god's name would anyone want to look at. for example, Blunt Street, Clay Center Kansas? Who wil evne know it exists? This idea that things appearing on the internet automatically get viewed by everyone is just fucking retarded.

There is loads of stuff that goes unless by billions. Even on a hugely popular site, like Youtube, which tries to get you watching the videos, still has thousands (if not millions) of videos seen by fewer than a 1000 people.

You're probably one of those people with a child that thinks there is a pedophile around every corner just waiting to pounce your little precious.

Your house, like your child, is nothing special. No one cares about them, so take the fucking stick out of your ass and use your energy for something productive.

Re:Call me paranoid... (2, Interesting)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about 5 years ago | (#29156743)

1) Put up a bigger fence, or get a smaller ego and realize no one gives a shit about your house.
2) Hmm...interesting expectation. Since it's completely unreasonable, I think we can all ignore it. Newspapers and TV stations can also include your house when that murder next door takes place. Don't believe me?? I live in a quiet, suburban area and a lady two doors down committed suicide by cop. My house was all over the news. Good thing I'm not selling it right now.
3) You've never looked at your house on street view?? Ok .. there is someone that is just technologically impaired. It's the first thing most people do when they find out about it. My house looks GREAT by the way!!! Much better than the view on the news with the police tape and police cars around it.

Google Street View is one of the greatest things the Internet has brought forth. Too bad a small, paranoid minority is trying to take it away from the majority everyone that finds it useful

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

speedtux (1307149) | about 5 years ago | (#29155763)

but while it's not "evil", if an individual person (rather than a computerised camera car) put photos up of my house it's plain creepy.

There are plenty of reasons to take pictures of your house. For example, I might be considering buying in the same neighborhood, I might want sales comps, I might want to show your landscaping or architecture to my architect, or I might want to report you for zoning violations.

And there are plenty of reasons for mapping sites to take pictures of your house and publish it. For example, your house might be a waypoint for navigation or geocaching.

If you don't want it to be seen by the public, build a fence.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

foobsr (693224) | about 5 years ago | (#29155835)

If you don't want it to be seen by the public, build a fence.

And as it virtually does not matter to you if your location is depicted, how does it come that you seem to be offended if he wants to put up a virtual fence?

CC.

Re:Call me paranoid... (3, Insightful)

RickRussellTX (755670) | about 5 years ago | (#29155981)

Because if the actions of individuals are constrained by fear of lawsuits, then nobody will take pictures, and applications of photographic and mapping technology will likewise be constrained. Sure, now he complains about Google. Next time it will be local realty system, then the city's map of water and sewer lines ("you can see the right rear tire of my car in this picture!"), then some poor guy's photostream on Flickr, etc.

I've used Street View to look at pictures of a destination -- including other people's residences -- PLENTY of times. It's absolutely invaluable to get the lay of the area, identify parking, etc before going out there, and reduces the likelihood of an accident or a traffic ticket. Realizing that the main parking entrance to a facility is on Beta Street when its mailing address is on Alpha Drive is fantastically useful information that saves me time and makes me safer.

And *it does not collect any information that is not easy visible from the street*. As a matter of principle, publishing photos taken on a public street should have no a priori restrictions.

Re:Call me paranoid... (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 5 years ago | (#29156511)

There has always been enough information available about you online if people really wanted it. A lot of it is provided by the government with public records. A picture of your house isn't going to change the world and for all you know, I've taken pictures of your house and even put them on stealthisguysstuff.com.

I don't like the idea of a precedent being sent that says I have to be careful about taking pictures in public because some sissy is afraid of his house being in a picture online.

Street view provides a useful service that shouldn't be ruined just because some people don't like change.

Don't Worry (5, Funny)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about 5 years ago | (#29155657)

Google is your friend, so nothing to worry about! Google is your friend!

Who knew that people outside could see in? (3, Insightful)

RickRussellTX (755670) | about 5 years ago | (#29155709)

Do you mean people walking down the street with a camera might photograph cars or faces? Or see things through a transparent material? And those same people could publish pictures on the Internet for any reason! They are history's greatest monsters. Well, I'm going to go live in a cave where this sort of thing can't happen. Who will think of the children? [penny-arcade.com]

Why not do two passes? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155743)

What I've never fully understood is why Google doesn't just do two passes before they post a photo. I realize the world is a big place, but it should be possible to remove moving objects from a scene from two photo sets. With a single pass many fast moving things should be able to be removed from the multiple angles, and a second pass should be able to remove slower moving objects from another set of multi-angle photos (with the possible exception of certain cats [nytimes.com] ).

Re:Why not do two passes? (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29155927)

Cept each photo would have to be snapped at the exact same spot and/or matched up. Doing that automatically would require a lot of computational horsepower.

Re:Why not do two passes? (1)

OolimPhon (1120895) | about 5 years ago | (#29156191)

Doing that automatically would require a lot of computational horsepower.

This is Google we're talking about, you know...

get over it and get used to it (2, Informative)

speedtux (1307149) | about 5 years ago | (#29155745)

Anybody can snap pictures on public streets and put them on the Internet. Cameras are increasingly geotagging them, so soon, anybody will be able to find pictures of anything by location anyway, whether Google drives around in a car or not.

Re:get over it and get used to it (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29155823)

One would assume by the precedent set by the Swiss those activities would also become prohibited.

Re:get over it and get used to it (1)

speedtux (1307149) | about 5 years ago | (#29156765)

The Swiss can do that for servers and businesses located in Switzerland; they have no jurisdiction over what happens outside Switzerland. The only reason Google talks to them is because Google wants to do business in Switzerland.

Also, given how much Switzerland depends on tourists, banning publishing of geolocated photographs would be rather bad for their economy.

Switzerland really has a choice: paranoid privacy-obsessed police state or relaxed and open tourist paradise. They can't be both.

Metamorofthis (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 5 years ago | (#29155773)

In Canada, at least not long ago when I was still an avid photographer, permission had to be asked of an individual before h/is/er picture was taken. I think it's reasonable that a person has a right to vet images of them that reach the public. Extending the argument, property has value, and public posting of a property's image could impact on the property's value. Not to mention weird stuff like stalkers. Google's gone totally Kafka. It's metamorphosed into something you wouldn't want to wake and find on your living room floor, only Google wouldn't fit of course, as it now looms larger than 'The Castle', more like Gormenghast. It's kinda tempting to see Google in Baroque, Gothic terms. A grotesque parody begins to writhe in fetal form.

Re:Metamorofthis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155827)

In the United States, due to the antiquated eavesdropping/wiretapping laws, you cannot record anybody's conversation without their knowledge and consent. However, it is perfectly legal to photograph or videotape them to your hearts content, unless they are a) naked ***, or b) someplace where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Now, I'm not an expert on lipreading, but it seems to me that if you are videotaping the face of someone talking, aren't you in effect recording their conversation?
 
 
*** Legally, then, the best solution for those that do not wish to be photographed is to always walk around naked.

Re:Metamorofthis (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29155917)

In the United States, due to the antiquated eavesdropping/wiretapping laws, you cannot record anybody's conversation without their knowledge and consent.

That is definitely not true [rcfp.org] . It's a state by state thing.

Re:Metamorofthis (2, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | about 5 years ago | (#29155923)

In Canada, at least not long ago when I was still an avid photographer, permission had to be asked of an individual before h/is/er picture was taken.

Dunno about Canada or Switzerland, but in the US, the right of publicity in most states is relatively weak: http://www.publaw.com/rightpriv.html [publaw.com] . Asking for permission might be a good idea, but in the US, it seems pretty clear to me (IANAL) that what google is doing isn't violating the right of publicity.

I think it's reasonable that a person has a right to vet images of them that reach the public.

Seems unreasonable to me. You're out in public. People can see you.

Extending the argument, property has value, and public posting of a property's image could impact on the property's value.

Just because a particular action can affect the value of your property, that doesn't mean that you have a legal right not to have that action taken.

Not to mention weird stuff like stalkers.

Huh? If someone's stalking you, and they know your address, you think they won't be able to get a photo of your house?

Google's gone totally Kafka.

I actually find your overly expansive view of property rights a lot scarier than anything google is doing.

IMO the really creepy stuff happens when lots of data about a particular person gets aggregated and made conveniently available. For instance, there are web sites like snitch.name that web-scrape social networking sites. Google isn't aggregating data about individuals here, and in fact they're trying pretty hard to avoid even including recognizable faces in the photos. Another creepy thing is when employers won't give Joe a job because Joe's credit rating is bad -- and then Joe can never pay off his debts, because he can't get a job. Again, it isn't google doing this.

Re:Metamorofthis (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 5 years ago | (#29156295)

>to vet images of them that reach the public.

>Seems unreasonable to me. You're out in public. People can see you

There's a world of difference between seeing someone in public, on the move, going about their business, and, a static image of them caught by another and posted in a public forum.

>Extending the argument, property has value, and public posting of a property's image could impact on the property's value

>Just because a particular action can affect the value of your property, that doesn't mean that you have a legal right not to have that action taken

Again, I was framing my statement in terms of a static image, taken and posted in a public forum. A fair amount of property laws speak directly to actions that can affect the value of a person's property, especially real estate. Two main, abstracted principles in property valuation deal with linkages and externalities. Linkages are things like access and egress while externalities are things like pollution, while neither especially speaks to my post the ideas speak directly to the idea that actions affecting property values are subject to scrutiny.

>Huh? If someone's stalking you, and they know your address, you think they won't be able to get a photo of your house?

Someone stalking you, (I don't think you have to worry), who takes a picture of your house is at least doing something attendant to criminal activity. Making photos available of the home of someone who is being stalked, has been stalked, or might be stalked, isn't necessarily a bad thing but it too should be subject to scrutiny.

>I actually find your overly expansive view of property rights a lot scarier than anything google is doing.

It's my parents' fault, they paid for my undergrad degree in 'Urban Land Economics' which centres on real estate and real estate laws, including privacy issues.

If they prohibit Google (4, Insightful)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29155781)

Where does it stop? Does this mean just about anybody can be forbidden from publishing pictures of things visible from the public eye? I can see a danger of this sort of thing being applied very selectively.

Re:If they prohibit Google (1)

julienr (784549) | about 5 years ago | (#29156133)

In the original press Release (in French here http://www.edoeb.admin.ch/aktuell/index.html?lang=fr [admin.ch] ), it also says the privacy watchdog will meet with Google on Monday and that they have to fix their problems (looks like their blurring algorithm isn't working properly) in order to reactivate the service. But well, we have a quite strong privacy law in Switzerland and I think that's a good thing. But the main point is, _before_ starting taking pictures, Google and the privacy watchdog had an agreement (that the faces will be blurred). And _after_ taking the pictures, a lot of faces aren't actually blurred. So Google hasn't respected the agreement. Full stop. So either they can fix it, either they should have though about their algorithm not working properly in the first place.

Re:If they prohibit Google (2, Insightful)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156225)

But the fact remains that the faces are required to be blurred. I agree that Google should do this as they do in the states, but voluntarily not by force of the states. The problem is that by requiring them to do that it creates the ability to do it to just about anybody who takes a photo in a public place and publishes it. What happens when this gets applied to, for example, photos of police brutality at a protest in interest of the privacy of the police officers? or a politician or famous businessman in a compromising position? What about news cameraman taking photos of crowds. By the Swiss definition of privacy they would be violating thousands of people's privacy at once. I think it's a lot easier to put the responsibility on individuals so that if they don't want something to be public, they shouldn't do it in public. It gives more freedom to everybody but at the same time requires more individual responsibility. I can't see the huge privacy violation anyway. I see people's faces un-blurred every day when I walk down the street. Just because it's on the internet doesn't somehow make it evil. It's not like it's realtime and tracking people's movements. No. That's what CCTV does and apparently few Europeans have problems with that. What makes the government somehow more trustworthy than a corporation?

Re:If they prohibit Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29156183)

Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts; Google has a lot of parts.

Re:If they prohibit Google (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29156535)

Well, in civilized countries, you have to ask people for permission, before recording anything of them. Audio, video, pictures, etc.
Which is usually not a problem. You nicely ask, and they're OK with it.
The point is that you have to ask.

It's an extension of the basic right to have control over your own body.

This is also, why such material is not allowed in court when there was no permission.

Re:If they prohibit Google (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156613)

Well, in civilized countries, you have to ask people for permission, before recording anything of them. Audio, video, pictures, etc. Which is usually not a problem. You nicely ask, and they're OK with it. The point is that you have to ask.

Free speech (taking a picture and publishing it) trumps your right to privacy in public places (none). And no, you don't have to ask under US law (civilized country) to record somebody, even without their consent, unless it's a conversation with an expectation of privacy and the state's law prohibits it. Details here [rcfp.org] .

It's an extension of the basic right to have control over your own body.

I completely agree. But how does taking a picture of you in public interfere with that, exactly? You own your own body, I understand, but you don't own my interpretation or representation of your body taken in a public place.

What's the fuss? (1)

krou (1027572) | about 5 years ago | (#29155797)

Why don't they just use Google's opt-out feature [theonion.com] .

The double standard (1)

westlake (615356) | about 5 years ago | (#29156233)

Why don't they just use Google's opt-out feature.

Tell me why - when the shoe is on the other foot - the geek will settle for nothing less than "opt-in."

Re:The double standard (1)

krou (1027572) | about 5 years ago | (#29156279)

The link I posted is actually meant as a joke. :)

Re:The double standard (1)

skyride (1436439) | about 5 years ago | (#29156719)

The link I posted is actually meant as a joke. :)

I think that comment is a testament to just how good Onion is.

UBS... (1)

phayes (202222) | about 5 years ago | (#29155849)

This is a clear reprisal for the US cracking open the treasured Swiss banking secret in order to dry up terrorist cash pipelines & catch deadbeat US tax dodgers. I think the US should still have pushed for total transparency in the Swiss banking sector. Swiss bankers have absolutely no compunction in taking your cash no matter how much blood it may have on it.

Re:UBS... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29155899)

And then that banking will go to the Caymans. Like it or not such things always have and always will exist.

Re:UBS... (1)

Reaperducer (871695) | about 5 years ago | (#29155953)

Crime will always exist, too. That doesn't mean the government should turn a blind eye to it.

Re:UBS... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29155975)

It makes more sense to profit from the unavoidable than to try fruitlessly to prohibit it.

Re:UBS... (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#29155931)

So the Swiss government is requiring Google to deny a service to people in Switzerland in retaliation for settlements that will cost Swiss banks hundreds of millions of dollars?

I'm sure the U.S. government is fine with that.

Google's algorithm (1)

Bagazip (793082) | about 5 years ago | (#29155879)

Google attempts to automatically blur faces, but the algorithm they use isn't perfect. I've noticed an image of Colonel Sanders on the store sign of a KFC that was blurred. I can't imagine that someone at Google manually went in to blur a black and white drawing of the Colonel.

On an interesting note, since the Colonel's image wasn't in color, looking just for flesh tones isn't required to trip Google's blurring. I guess Google wanted to make sure they'd even blur the faces of any mimes they came across...can't say I blame them for that one.

nudist beach (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155893)

So, if i am on a nudist beach in Portugal or Greece, why should Google Earth show me so that my ex-girlfriend can see me and post the pictures of facebook and then ruin by career?

No google earth in EU. F*ck off google!

Re:nudist beach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29156149)

God damn. Some of you Europeans are as irrational about Google as the nuts claiming Obama is setting up "death panels". You really think the driver of the Google van would drive by a nudist beach and not either turn off the camera or make a note to delete the photos on that side?

Re:nudist beach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29156711)

I'd mod this up if I had any mod points left (and i also forgot my userid). This is the most insightful defence against "why not put up pictures of public places". Sure, everything outside your house is public but that doesn't mean that the google-eye should be able to photograph all plublic places at all times. Claiming this is not a problem unless you're paranoid, is insane.

Any governent that does what the citizens want has no option but to forbid google earth for its country.

Only faces and plates? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155951)

"Google has made masking the images of people and car license plates obligatory."

What about windows on houses, that's probably the biggest privacy concern right there, but no mention of masking windows so you can't see inside people's homes. Why not?

Re:Only faces and plates? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 5 years ago | (#29156855)

Can you provide 3 examples of street view images that show show a good view inside someone's house?

Considering they take the pictures in the day light and most houses are unoccupied in the day, they're usually pitch black inside. Even some shops are hard to see in.

Quite frankly, I think this is just a myth started by the ignorant. Being able to tell that someone might have a sofa in front of their window is hardly an issue. That and your curtains should be shut if you're not home anyway so you're not advertising to the burglar walking down the street, letting him know you have a big ass flat screen TV.

Why is it... (4, Interesting)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29155963)

Why is it that Street View is OK but CCTV in Britain is bad? Both only see what anyone on the street could see. You don't have an expectation of privacy in public.

Re:Why is it... (1)

arethuza (737069) | about 5 years ago | (#29156125)

Stop trying to confuse us with that liberal "logic" thing.

swiss in britain (1)

stabiesoft (733417) | about 5 years ago | (#29156243)

When I first saw this story, I thought, wow do the swiss people never travel to London? Every move they make is recorded and analyzed. Frankly, it would not surprise me if inside switzerland's large cities they record.

Re:Why is it... (3, Informative)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156277)

Because you can track people in realtime with CCTV. You can keep tabs on anybody or everybody at once. Because if you ever have to overthrow a government that becomes oppressive you're screwed.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156309)

And it's better if Google does it instead?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156369)

What exactly are you smoking that street-view is updated in realtime... and do you have any left?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156399)

They still know who was out on the street at a given time.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156559)

which isn't much, especially when the faces are blurred with the exceptions of the ones the algorithm misses. If you're so concerned about that why not go to flikr and complain about people's blurred faces in public places. If I was trying to track somebody's face down the last place I'd look would be streetview.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156577)

Google can see it unblurred.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156633)

If the algorithm to blur it is automatic it makes sense that the originals would be discarded (no sense in keeping the originals if they won't be used). Even if it weren't the case, what is the problem with seeing people on a public street?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156681)

Well your entire point is that Google can't see where people are because they blur their images, which isn't obvious to me at all. YouTube is full of videos which you can watch in HQ, even though they were uploaded before HQ was an option, which means Google kept the originals.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156723)

HQ was available before it was added as a button on the interface. Google/Youtube kept nothing but what they said they would. Programs such as Miro could download them or you could use a special link. You will notice, however, that there are plenty of videos without the HQ option because nobody opted to upload a HQ compliant video and bother to set the options to get it to work.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156753)

No, the point is that there are a bunch of videos you can watch in HQ that were uploaded way before anyone knew HQ existed, which means Google has no problems with keeping vast amounts of data.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156775)

Can you provide me with one single plausible motivation for them to do so? A single one?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156819)

Can you provide me with one single plausible motivation for the British government to do so? A single one?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156863)

Keep tabs on it's citizens without their consent for law enforcement, unauthorized surveillance. It could be abused by corrupt law enforcement to keep track of people they just don't like including political enemies of the ruling parties or opposition threatening to cut law enforcement funding. Think what J Edgar Hoover times 1000. The power is much much greater with real-time surveillance and the potential for abuse with such systems is relatively limitless, not to mention with every movement of every citizen tracked it makes overthrowing a government infinitely more difficult if that ever was required. The list goes on and on. But you didn't answer my question. It's google we're talking about here. Give me one single motivation why Google would keep that data?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156755)

Plus... It's like you're arguing Google has some secret evil motivation to keep the uncensored originals, despite the fact that this would double their storage requirements and provide no conceivable benefit. It strikes me as irrational paranoia, frankly.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156777)

That's my point. If people don't assume some evil purpose behind Street View then why do they see one behind CCTV?

Re:Why is it... (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 5 years ago | (#29156293)

Because too many of those neo-feudalists are convinced that private companies would never do something evil, only government does. Even when you show them some proof of the contrary.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156315)

Both do, but the difference is that private corporations have no direct authority over you. So go ahead living in the illusion that the government has your best interests at heart, power never corrupts, and society is better off when individual liberty is sacrificed for the arbitrary "greater good" du jour.

Re:Why is it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29156311)

Switzerland is not the UK. Which part of that is hard to understand?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29156553)

They're both NOT OK. At least by law in civilized countries. Here you have to ask before taking a picture of someone. At least when it's not clearly visible.

That's why there are those "warning camera" signs. That's why it's not allowed in court without permission. That's why you ask someone in an interview if you can record the audio, before actually doing so.

You always have a right to your own body. Your statement is deliberately false and borders to criminality.

Re:Why is it... (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 5 years ago | (#29156585)

So if someone looks at you on the street you can sue them from invasion of privacy?

Re:Why is it... (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156669)

What country do you live in that restricts your ability to record what you see and publish what you see in public so severely? Please. I'd like to make a note to never ever live there. You have a right to your own body, yes, but that right is not infringed by my taking a photo and does not trump my discretionary use of free speech by publishing that photo (which, depending on who you are, I might have very good reason to do so).

Re:Why is it... (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about 5 years ago | (#29156561)

The British seem to think that CCTV is good, while Street View is bad, which is truly insane. I would say that there is some expectation of privacy even in public, and would have absolutely no problem if the government set up still cameras that randomly took a picture every few months that I could request be deleted. Going outside does subject you occasional glances, some of them at rare awkward moments, but it should not subject you to constant, permanently recorded, scrutiny.

Give them what they want. (4, Interesting)

TheMCP (121589) | about 5 years ago | (#29156071)

Advice for Google:
Switzerland wants not to have street view in their country? Give them what they want. Turn it off. Don't spend another dime on it. Every time someone tries to use the feature for switzerland, put up a notice that says "Street view is blocked for this country by order of the Swiss government." And then wash your hands of it. You don't have to spend any more money on delivering a perfectly reasonable feature when the government wants to give you a hard time about it, and they don't get to have enjoyment of the service after they've been pissy about it. Maybe then other countries will be slightly more reasonable about your services when they recognize that if they give you too hard a time about things, you'll make sure their population knows *precisely* why they can't get the same level of service that people in every other country can.

Re:Give them what they want. (0, Offtopic)

bitemykarma (1515895) | about 5 years ago | (#29156113)

I tried to mod you insightful, but for some fucking reason changing the moderation selection box doesn't do anything anymore. I think it's one of the Firefux addons that I've installed but who knows.

So anyway, fuck the Swiss.

Re:Give them what they want. (2, Insightful)

mccalli (323026) | about 5 years ago | (#29156135)

Thing is, they clearly don't find it perfectly reasonable. I must say I have misgivings about it also. So we agree - give 'em what they want, turn it off. It's just that it seems we have come to the same conclusions for entirely different reasons.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:Give them what they want. (1, Interesting)

Score Whore (32328) | about 5 years ago | (#29156203)

Are you for real? Consider this:

Person A: "I don't want this cookie. Take it off my plate."
Person B: "OK. Fine. I'll take it off your plate and then you won't be able to enjoy it. That'll show you."

You know that you aren't really punishing anyone by taking away something they have explicitly said they don't want?

Re:Give them what they want. (1)

ianezz (31449) | about 5 years ago | (#29156301)

You know that you aren't really punishing anyone by taking away something they have explicitly said they don't want?

Since when does "through elected representatives" mean "explicit"?

Re:Give them what they want. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29156303)

Swiss government != Swiss people

HTH.

Re:Give them what they want. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29156323)

You've never been to Switzerland, have you? They're one of the more actively democratic nations on earth, with referendums on virtually everything. The standards of privacy and public behaviour expected there are light years away from those expected in the States.

I have no doubt at all that this will be a majority view in Switzerland. I'm not Swiss, but I have lots of dealings with them and travel there regularly.

Re:Give them what they want. (4, Insightful)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156349)

No. It's more like this:

Person A: "I demand with the authority endowed to me by a 51% majority (compared to the other bad choice) that you no longer sell cookies to anybody in my group because I am all powerful and all knowing and speak for all of them, including the minority that have no individual liberty! Cookies are bad! Muahahahahah!"

Person B: "ok, fine, but i'll be sure and tell the next customer who asks for cookies why they can't have any and what an asshole you are!"

Advice for the Geek. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 5 years ago | (#29156395)

Advice for Google:

Switzerland wants not to have street view in their country? Turn it off. Don't spend another dime on it. [Put] up a notice that says "Street view is blocked for this country by order of the Swiss government." And then wash your hands of it. Maybe then other countries will be more reasonable about your services when they recognize that if they give you too hard a time about things...

And just maybe the party that stands up to Google will find itself in control of the cantons and the Federal Assembly.

A lesson that won't be lost on others.

People can turn dangerously territorial when it comes down to the intimacies of home and neighborhood.

The geek never sees the warning signs until it is too late.

Well - it's not perfect (1)

eples (239989) | about 5 years ago | (#29156463)

It only blurred 1/3 of the people in this image: 3 Guys in Geneva [google.com]

Re:Well - it's not perfect (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 5 years ago | (#29156791)

It's still pretty blurry being so far away from the camera. I doubt if you could identify them based on those photos.
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