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Google Privacy Quickies

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the get-over-it dept.

Google 76

Several notes about Google and privacy. First, Lucas123 informs us that Google's global privacy counsel blogged about an improvement in Google's data-retention policies: the company plans to anonymize data it stores about users after 18 months — a slight improvement on the "18 to 24 months" of the previous policy. This move may have come as a response to pressure from European regulators. Next, Spamicles sends in word that an EFF attorney has been photographed by Google's Street View. The funny thing is, this isn't the first time it's happened. Finally, word from reader tamar that if you choose to share a video from Google Video to another social network like MySpace, your username and password get sent over http in plaintext, rather than the more secure https.

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76 comments

plain text (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483197)

I call BS regarding the google video thing, we all know it was ROT13'd twice.

Re:plain text (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483311)

That's stupid, the least they could do is use a more optimized version of that algorithm. ROT26 is much faster and uses much less CPU power, therefor being much better for the climate.

Re:plain text (1)

Mr. Bad Example (31092) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483557)

> I call BS regarding the google video thing, we all know it was ROT13'd twice.

That's nowhere near secure enough. I ROT6.5 everything four times.

Re:plain text (2, Funny)

Kagura (843695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483583)

And good luck breaking a cipher that doesn't exist! :)

One might be a god among men to patent dual-ROT13.

Photographed in public? Oh well! (5, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483299)

When will people learn that they shouldn't do things in public that they don't want people to see? It's PUBLIC. If you have something you want to hide, then by god don't do it in plain view of everyone!

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483369)

This is true of most of the western world, too. It's actually not just true outside, either, but anyplace to which the public has access. For example, in a hotel in which you do not have to pass a guard to gain access to the rooms, it is completely legal to videotape or photograph people in the hallways... This is true at the very least in the US and Canada.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483555)

When will people learn that they shouldn't do things in public that they don't want people to see? It's PUBLIC. If you have something you want to hide, then by god don't do it in plain view of everyone!

Thing is, this "don't do anything in public" schtick keeps expanding. First, it was "anything on your property", then it was "anything in your house", now it's "anything anywhere someone might have snuck a camera". Last I checked, only most states ban companies from filming you on the toilet.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483645)

Speaking specifically about the smoking, it is illegal to smoke indoors pretty much anywhere but in your own home in Ontario, Canada. So at least here, privacy isn't an option for smoking, assuming you have a job.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483691)

So at least here, privacy isn't an option for smoking, assuming you have a job.

Or you could just control yourself and your habit enough to wait until you get home before smoking. It's your choice.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (0, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483811)

Or you could just control yourself and your habit enough to wait until you get home before smoking. It's your choice.

While I agree with your sentiment to a certain degree, smoking is addictive. I'm fucking asthmatic and I can't seem to quit permanently (so far my record is around a year or something, then I had a car stolen, whee.)

It's not just a habit. Scratching both sides of your nose and straightening your forelock before you go to sleep is a habit. Cigarette smoking, for most people, is an addiction.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (-1, Flamebait)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484119)

It's not just a habit. Scratching both sides of your nose and straightening your forelock before you go to sleep is a habit. Cigarette smoking, for most people, is an addiction.

not after a year it's not.

You quit for a year? Guess what? You quit, and then a year later you started smoking again. You didn't fail at quitting--you succeeded!

I'm sick and tired of nic-addicts quitting, then having one cigarette, and throwing all caution to the wind and going back to a pack a day.

If it takes a $20 a pack tax and firing anyone who so much as brings a cigarette to any place of employement, let's do it.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (-1, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484173)

If it takes a $20 a pack tax and firing anyone who so much as brings a cigarette to any place of employement, let's do it.

Making things illegal has pretty much never been successful in reducing their use.

Prohibition of alcohol simply ended up funding organized crime - all they had to do was give the public what it wanted. Prohibition was ended primarily to prevent this trend from continuing, in order to unglamorize being a ganster. Of course, today we have hip-hop to make sure that every kid wants to tote a gun. (ObDisclaimer: I like and listen to hip-hop on a daily basis.)

Prohibition of Marijuana has simply driven it underground, and it's not even physically addictive (according to every reputable study on the subject, including those both paid for and carried out by the US government.) Do you really think that prohibition of tobacco would stamp it out? Taxing it at such a high rate would only produce a grey market, which would probably be highly successful given that the whole world isn't going to ban smoking.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19484761)

If it takes a $20 a pack tax and firing anyone who so much as brings a cigarette to any place of employement, let's do it.

Fuck you, my habits are none of your damn business. It's not like people are sitting around blowing smoke in your face, so quit your bitching. If you don't want to hang around people while they're smoking, don't.

But hey, if we're going to outlaw every little pet peeve, can we add religion to the list? It makes people act like sheep. It's bad for them. Not only that, their constant preaching to "non-believers" is a nuisance.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#19486743)

Fuck you, my habits are none of your damn business. It's not like people are sitting around blowing smoke in your face, so quit your bitching. If you don't want to hang around people while they're smoking, don't.
As a smoker you have no idea how sensitive people can be to your smoking. Simply being near you after you've had a smoke can be unbearable. Now if that's too bad at a place of work, then I say we repeal sexual harrassment laws. If you don't like being sexually harrassed, you can go find another job.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#19486675)

I have no sympathy, especially for asthma sufferers under 25. Now chances are you're older in which case I have some sympathy for you (the older you are the more sympathy I have ;)) as back then it wasn't as well known. But I have no sympathy for smokers under 25. They know what they were doing when they started, they can reap the consequences.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19492165)

Well, I'm 30, but I still don't have that excuse. It was well known before then that cigarettes are hazardous. My mother smoked until she found out she was pregnant. My father continued to smoke while she was pregnant and still does to this day, and would smoke around me up to the age of 5 when my parents divorced and thereafter whenever he visited.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (0, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483783)

Speaking specifically about the smoking, it is illegal to smoke indoors pretty much anywhere but in your own home in Ontario, Canada. So at least here, privacy isn't an option for smoking, assuming you have a job.

I'm trying to see how your rights are being infringed here. Smoking is legal. Are you worried that later, smoking will be made illegal, and all the former smokers will be rounded up and put into concentration camps?

Now, what it sounds like to me (I have been wrong before, could be wrong now, and will be wrong again) is that you're trying to hide the fact that you're smoking from someone you know.

Perhaps that someone is your insurance company. If you told them you don't smoke, and you do, then you have committed fraud. So you are asking for assistance in hiding a crime. Perhaps that someone is your significant other. If you told them that you don't smoke, and you do, then you are an asshole. So you are asking for assistance in hiding the fact that you are an asshole. Perhaps that someone is your parents. In which case you should just grow a pair (unless you're female, that would be disturbing, in that case simply remember that you are a vertebrate) and tell them the truth. You are asking for assistance in being a wimp.

I am open to the possibility that there is some valid reason to hide your addiction. I'm interested in hearing what it is.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483869)

I am open to the possibility that there is some valid reason to hide your addiction. I'm interested in hearing what it is.

Discrimination from an employer who has an irrational hatred of smokers, in a job where lighting up during an employer-sanctioned break time or after hours does not affect your performance (say, a desk job)?

Of course, it goes beyond that, corporations have decided that they have the right to control what people do on their free time, something that was unheard of only a few decades ago. People talk about how salaries are strong, but show me where employers have tripled salaries in order to deserve 24x7 control over a 9-5 worker?

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483973)

Discrimination from an employer who has an irrational hatred of smokers, in a job where lighting up during an employer-sanctioned break time or after hours does not affect your performance (say, a desk job)?

How do you propose to hide your smoking habits from your employer? Do you put on a bunny suit so you don't get smoke on your clothes, and brush your teeth after every smoke? Why not just add a mask to your bunny suit?

The point here is that you still don't have any reasonable expectation of privacy in public. Yes, I understand your concern; your employer is unlikely to follow you around to find out if you smoke, but may google you up.

But then, what you're doing is creating a stressful situation. Shouldn't you be looking for an employer that doesn't care if you smoke?

I understand the idea that you should have privacy. But public is, well, public. If you want privacy, you should be in private.

People talk about how salaries are strong, but show me where employers have tripled salaries in order to deserve 24x7 control over a 9-5 worker?

It would have to do better than that. Wages haven't kept up with inflation in over two decades, let alone the cost of living which has risen even faster (due in part to certain things like higher energy costs.)

But regardless, your employer doesn't have control over you when you are not at work. And the law already tends to protect you, unless you live in an at-will hiring location, as I do in California, where you can be fired for basically any reason. And again, if the cost of working for your employer is too high, why do you work for them and not someone else?

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

batkiwi (137781) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484401)

Discrimination from an employer who has an irrational hatred of smokers, in a job where lighting up during an employer-sanctioned break time or after hours does not affect your performance (say, a desk job)?


It effects me when you come back from a smoke break smelling rank and I can't concentrate then it's an issue.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#19487265)

Agreed. Also even if someone is in another room the smell tends to drift in and starts giving me headaches.

Just because you smoke doesn't mean we non-smokers can't smell you so it is not Google you have to worry about giving away your dirty little secret.

You should be more worried by your own disgusting smell.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (2, Informative)

bberens (965711) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484787)

Smoking affects the company's bottom line if they self-insure, meaning they partially or fully fund the payments to your doctors. Many large companies do this to save money. They pay [insert insurance company] a small fee to handle the paperwork and all of that but then the insurance company pulls funds to pay for procedures/drugs/whatever from an account funded by your employer.

Cheers,
B

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

UncleFluffy (164860) | more than 6 years ago | (#19487557)

Smoking affects the company's bottom line if they self-insure

So do skiing, riding motorcycles, eating at McDogfood, eating nitrate-cured meats, not getting off your ass and exercising enough, and lots of other things. Why do people focus so much on just that one when arguing healthcare costs?

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 6 years ago | (#19490125)

Primarily because it's currently the single leading cause of cancer and death in the United States. I totally see your point though.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (1)

UncleFluffy (164860) | more than 6 years ago | (#19493345)

My guess would actually be that it's the #1 cause where a specific cause can be determined, and that "not exercising enough" would actually be the #1 cause, given that it's a partial contribution to far more cases. However, it still is the case that we focus on smoking as a "social crime" far more (in proportion to its consequences) than other activities, and that bugs me. (I'm an ex-smoker, so have spent time on both sides of the divide).

Hiding ... (1)

drx (123393) | more than 6 years ago | (#19488925)

Hiding small "frauds" and sometimes being an "asshole" is what privacy is mostly about. It is a thing to value, because nobody is perfect. The law is also not perfect. Because most laws and contract points were invented before the ultimate surveillance came along. Do you understand how much things are forbidden to do? Like crossing the street when the pedestrian light is red, to carve initials into a tree, ...

And it is okay that these things are forbidden, but it is impossible to always follow the law to the last comma. People have to improvise all the time, they lie, ride the bus without a ticked coz they forgot their wallet, call someone without revealing their identity, pee into a bush, close the curtains only after they took off their undies, poke their noses, smoke a cigarette ...

This all is nothing special, but with ultimate surveillance, such actions can become an embarrassment and suddenly you should not hide them anymore. Suddenly you should change your life, you should become somebody else, you should bend over to hardcore puritan values ...

The possibility to escape this, for some moments, is one of privacy's best features, and i suppose it is a human need.

Re:Hiding ... (1)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 6 years ago | (#19494071)

I mostly agree with you, except I think this stuff you mention should eventually not be illegal, or embarrassing. The good part about absolute surveillance is that it'll force us to come to terms with who we really are. There's just too many hypocritical laws sustained only by our "privacy".

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483837)

"When will people learn that they shouldn't do things in public that they don't want people to see? It's PUBLIC. If you have something you want to hide, then by god don't do it in plain view of everyone!"

Smoking indoors has been baned in the US since the 1970's.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (4, Interesting)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483857)

Zoom the image out and pan a little to the left (above the first parking meter). He's walking in front of a security camera.

Not pertinent, but thought it was interesting.

Re:Photographed in public? Oh well! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19484095)

The problem is when what you are doing is captured permanently 'forever' on a platform that is regularly viewed globally by millions.

This is very different then being caught on someone's anonymous home video or even a news report which are generally at hot-spots and people are well aware they are being surveilled...

google's application, although technically cool, seems a bit extreme, for the tired excuse of 'public surveillance', especially sponsored by a for-profit corp.

a slippery slope, where the for-profit corps should get _none_ of the 'benefit of the doubt'.

Is it posted? (3, Insightful)

gravesb (967413) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483317)

Is the privacy policy posted? So anyone who uses Google has the ability to find out how their information will be retained? And they use it anyway? What's the problem? Google doesn't provide an essential service. If you don't like the policy, don't use it. If enough people stop using it, they'll change their policy. Google isn't the government. Once you provide them with information, they have every right to retain it. Personally, I don't think their privacy policy is bad, so I use Google. However, there are other options out there.

Re:Is it posted? (2, Interesting)

micheas (231635) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483449)

I don't think it is reasonable to expect we will expose your password in plain text over the internet to be in a privacy policy.

There is also the expectation that the privacy policy will be within the confines of the law (Google's doesn't or didn't comply with EU law).

Google seems to believe that just because they have the corporate motto "don't be evil" means that people will think of them as good.

It appears that Google is one of the main funders of the recall of a San Francisco Supervisor that voted against the Google/Earthlink wifi deal that reeks of corruption.)

Overall as a linux user with a Gmail account and multiple adsense accounts, I am starting to view Microsoft in a more positive light than Google. It's sad because I know many people that work at Google and almost without exception they respond with "our search results are uncensored" as if that has anything to do with the trashed security, government corruption, and illegal data mining.

Re:Is it posted? (4, Interesting)

jma05 (897351) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484875)

Now that Google acquired DoubleClick, Google has far more information than just what users "knowingly" provide it. Google has the ability now to collate your perfectly identifiable personal information (GMail, Checkout) and can match that with info gathered from its ad service when you think you may not be using Google. You no longer know how much Google knows about you. That may be clear to the geeks at Slashdot, but not so for most public out there. If Google wants to claim that they "do no evil", they need to disclose what info they collect.

Myself included, most people don't care if the data is simply used for anonymous stats and for user profiling for internal use to improve their search performance. As censorship threats grow, we need better laws of disclosure when consumer information businesses grow beyond a certain point. We know ISP logs have been reviewed by the govt. I doubt if similar move has not been made with Google.

Now for conspiracy theories - Imagine a cabal that collects online records of all citizens for future use so that they may be discredited by their past harmless private behaviors when they develop public lives in time.

Re:Is it posted? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#19485595)

Once you provide them with information, they have every right to retain it.
That's far from obvious, actually.

1) "Once you provide them ..." suggests that all the information they have was given willingly. However, much of their information is obtained incidentally by crawling or other services, which often has nothing to do with consent of the information owner.

For example, there was a lawsuit by AFP against Google because they were displaying news images that they don't have any rights to display (Here's why they don't have rights: AFP sells a subscription to NY Times, which has then the right to display the photographs to its users as part of the license, but NY Times doesn't own the photographs. Google crawls NY Times and downloads the images like any user, but then displays those same images to its users in the cache etc. That's illegal because Google doesn't have a subscription from AFP, so it doesn't have a copyright usage license to serve those images to its own customers) Google was losing that fight by the way, and chose to settle with AFP instead.

As another example, Google routinely analyze and dissect messages on their gmail servers which belong to people who have no Gmail account at all and haven't agreed to any terms of service.

2) "they have every right to retain it" Not in the EU they don't. First of all they only have a limited right to retain those parts which are directly related to the service that they provide, and certainly not forever.

3) "they have every right..." Not even close. In the EU, they have no rights to resell it, or redistribute it to partner businesses. They must keep a record of it so that customers who ask can see what they have about them, so that means they can't just treat the data any way they like. There are also disclosure issues to law enforcement etc.

The list goes on and on, but I think that's enough to convince you that a seemingly obvious statement such as "Once you provide them with information, they have every right to retain it." is far from legally obvious, at least in the biggest market in the world.

http vs https (2, Informative)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483343)

One of the services which Google Video connects to, MySpace, doesn't ever use https..

This is the login page:
http://www.myspace.com/ [myspace.com]

Re:http vs https (1)

irtza (893217) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483387)

don't you have an option to manually embed the video into any site? This would bypass the sending of anything in plaintext.

of course if the login for a site is plaintext, there isn't much you can do about it. The real question would be google's retention policy on the username/password field for you ancillary services.

Re:http vs https (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483407)

Whats the point of all the rest if the passwords get sent in plain text? We have enough problems with all the malware, keyloggers, and other 'booby' traps for loosing passwords and other personal info without reputed companies like google giving them away.

Re:http vs https (1)

si618 (263300) | more than 6 years ago | (#19501449)

Are you sure about that?

I don't use MySpace, but I do use Facebook and noted that their login page was http. After reading their privacy blurb which said all sensitive info was encrypted, I sent an email to them and inquired about it.

I got a very friendly and quick response back saying that login is encrypted, it's just that it happens very quickly. Of course I didn't believe them, so I fired up Wireshark, and sure enough, login was via https://login.facebook.com./ [login.facebook.com]

I searched through the normal http conversation from the packet dump and found no reference to my password or username.

Personally I'd prefer that they don't hide their use of SSL, but i'm sure they have their reasons, beuller?

Google PR (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483347)

Think the timing of these announcements is at all related to the Google's (false) claim that Privacy International is run by a bunch of Microsoft shills yesterday being exposed? They got some bad pr there so this is part of Google's PR damage control. Kind of like Exxon or BP donating a few million bucks to some enviromentally friendly cause, its nice of them but doesnt change whats really going on.

Re:Google PR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19488799)

The only "evidence" that Google said such a thing is claim by Privacy International itself (really by Simon Davies). Given that PIs report is riddled with factual errors and is extremely biased, I'll need better evidence. The names of these journalists together with public statements would be a good start. This is especially the case given that none of the stories run in the press have, as far as I can tell, included such an assertion.

Obligatory skit (3, Funny)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483405)

Mr. Ken Andrews, of Leighton Road, Slough has concealed himself extremely well. He could be almost anywhere. He could be behind the wall, inside the water barrel, beneath a pile of leaves, up in the tree, squatting down behind the car, concealed in a hollow, or crouched behind any one of a hundred bushes. However, we happen to know he's in the water barrel.

[BOOM!]

This demonstrates the value of not being seen.

Skewed Odds (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483497)

I guess if you take up smoking, you will have much better odds being photographed/video'd for these things. First smokers get the 20 minute break every hour to stand around in the nice out doors, now they get featured on google maps as a result. It's just not fair.

Re:Skewed Odds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19484403)

Where I work it seems more like some of my smoking coworkers take a 20 minute break every half hour, but YMMV. I can't complain too loud because the boss smokes too. I'd heard about a study a while back that said that smokers have a higher chance of getting promotions because of the socialization that happens during smoke breaks. I could definitely see that being the case at my place of work.

Makes me wonder... (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#19483831)

...how much of their data retention is because of any pressure from the Bush administration, especially with things like the Patriot Act. It will be interesting to see how Google will act when being pressured by the US to do one thing and by Europe to do the other....

Two words of advice for this attorney (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19483865)

Aero Bics.

Greater Threat (5, Insightful)

NaCh0 (6124) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484161)

I think the greater threat to liberty are the people who want to outlaw taking photographs in public.

As an amateur photographer, it scares me to think I will eventually need to be licensed to carry my Nikon if these "privacy" nazis get their way.

Re:Greater Threat (1)

cliath (978599) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484365)

If anything, you'll have to wear a Nikon patch so good photographers can identify you as a Nikon user.

High noise low ISO 4lyfe!!!!!

Re:Greater Threat (1)

Snotman (767894) | more than 6 years ago | (#19487751)

Don't you think there is a difference between taking a photo as an amateur and taking a photo that is being used to generate revenue? I definitely see a difference. For one, if your picture was taken and used by a commercial entity, don't you think you should be asked permission first? After all, they are profiting on your image that you did not agree to distribute. It seems that we all should own the copyright on our own images and distribution is barred unless agreed to by the owner of the copyright. However, amateur photography is another issue altogether because generally, it does not generate revenue. However, if it did and my image was responsible for the revenue because it is in your picture, than I believe I would be entitled to some of that revenue unless I gave you the legal right to make money off of my image.

Anonymize _how_? (4, Interesting)

WalterGR (106787) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484367)

Anonymize? How do they plan to do that? AOL released "anonymized" search data - they replaced each unique user with a random numeric ID. And people were tracked down. Consider this New York Times [nytimes.com] article:

A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749

The number was assigned by the company to protect the searcher's anonymity, but it was not much of a shield. No. 4417749 conducted hundreds of searches over a three-month period...

And search by search, click by click, the identity of AOL user No. 4417749 became easier to discern. There are queries for "landscapers in Lilburn, Ga," several people with the last name Arnold and "homes sold in shadow lake subdivision gwinnett county georgia."

It did not take much investigating to follow that data trail to Thelma Arnold...

Re:Anonymize _how_? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19484701)

Good point. Esp. with everyone ego-searching their own names...

Re:Anonymize _how_? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19486199)

By removing the ability to connect searches from the same user together. That is, assigning a unique ID to a user like AOL did will be impossible.

aggregation and availability are the problems (5, Interesting)

markjhood2003 (779923) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484481)

People are pointing out that it's perfectly legal for someone to go down a public street and photograph anybody's front door and window, and are using that as a justification for some of Google's problematic privacy policies.

As a recent victim of a burglary in San Francisco, I've come to a different point of view. Sure, it's understandable that an individual should be able to walk down my street and photograph all the property there, especially if it's for some personal project, but when a corporation comes around and systematically photographs every house of a huge portion of San Francisco, and then organizes it into a easily accessable database, and all for profit, then that becomes a issue of a different nature.

In the pre-Google world if a burglar wanted to case a street he or she would have to physically go to that street and take photographs and notes. There is a tangible cost to getting that information that balances out its public availability. Now, all that person has to do is go to Google's street views and get exposed to some ads in order to case out the most vulnerable homes on practically every street in San Francisco. Google's aggregation and packaging of that public information vastly increases the potential for the abuse of privacy, even if the source of that information is public to begin with.

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 6 years ago | (#19485517)

So, in your mind, the difference between Google's photographs and photographs taken by any old person is... that in the former case, somebody intends to use them to make money (as if an individual would never use them for the same purpose)? Or is it that in the former case, there's a whole bunch of pictures (because of course an individual would never take multiple pictures)? Or is it that Google's photographs are being given away to anyone who wants them (which an individual who isn't looking to make money would never, ever do)?

None of those make a whole lot of sense. So the problem you have isn't that people are taking the pictures, but what they're using them for. So how, exactly, do you propose to stop burglars from using photographs of houses?

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

TheNicestGuy (1035854) | more than 6 years ago | (#19490961)

the difference [...] is [...] somebody intends to use them to make money

Nope, anybody is welcome to make money taking pictures of my street if they want. I don't hold copyrights on the view of my house.

Or is it that [...] there's a whole bunch of pictures

Getting warmer, but nope. If someone wants to drive an anonymous van down my street taking thousands of photos for their personal use, or most commercial uses, they are welcome to. Of course, I'm also welcome to call the police if I think they look suspicious, but that's almost beside the point.

Or is it that Google's photographs are being given away to anyone who wants them

Oh, you're getting so close to the heart of the matter here, but you still aren't feeling it. It's not that third parties have access to the photos. It's that millions of third parties have access to the photos through the world's largest search specialist's extremely popular GIS application.

It is true, for over a century now people have had the ability and the right to make a permanent photographic record of things visible in public, give it away to people without the consent of the original subjects/owners, and even make multiple copies to distribute. But Google Street Views, although it's just the convergence of numerous existing technologies that have been around for years at the least, cannot as a whole be casually compared to what we're used to, and I really wish people would stop trying. It's a new beast that has to be reexamined carefully. Never before (never mind A9, whose project folded, or Zaio [zaio.com], who don't have the exposure of Google) have photographic records been indexed to their subjects (via their street addresses) on such a massive scale without the subjects' consents, and then distributed instantaneously and on-demand on such a massive scale. We've had satellite imaging for a while now, but this a much more useful angle and a much, much higher definition.

That is the difference, and it's why you can't assess the privacy implications of GSV by relating it piecemeal to all the previously-commonplace activities it combines. Taken individually, of course they're acceptable. But before assuming GSV as a whole is acceptable, step back and think about all the new implications. And one of the big ones, as I pointed out when this issue last came up [slashdot.org], is that this is the first time millions of people can look at your property on a whim without physically visiting it and giving you at least the opportunity to know who is looking, which I consider rude.

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 6 years ago | (#19495489)

So, then, the problem is that the photos are being given away by a popular service. Obviously, then, only unpopular services should be allowed to give away millions of photos of public places!

Look, either everyone should be allowed to take and give away as many photos as they can afford, or nobody should be. Which is it?

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

TheNicestGuy (1035854) | more than 6 years ago | (#19496227)

Look, either everyone should be allowed to take and give away as many photos as they can afford, or nobody should be. Which is it?

If the world were truly that black and white and I had to answer that, I'm afraid I'd have to say, "I don't know." Fortunately it's not, and the question misses the point. I've got no problem with Google taking and giving away as many photos as they can afford, no matter how popular they are. They already do this with Google Images. What worries me is the new level of association of specific photos with specific locations, and thus specific people.

One of Google's stated goals [google.com] is to "bring all the world's information to users seeking answers", and I applaud the notion. But don't forget that "all the world's information" includes every piece of information about you, and not every user seeking answers about you is benign. Some are curious about things that are none of their business, and some are outright malicious. Regulators recognize this already in plenty of other contexts: Mail tampering, wiretapping, stalking, and identity theft are all illegal in most jurisdictions. When Google starts associating their mountains of data with individuals, and making those associations accessible to "users seeking answers", they and we can't be naïve about how vulnerable that suddenly makes the individuals.

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

zrq (794138) | more than 6 years ago | (#19485597)

I don't want to trivialise your recent troubles. You have my sympathy, and I hope that the burglary didn't cause you too much grief.

However, you seem to be suggesting that GoogleMaps StreetView may make us more vulnerable to crime.

... if a burglar wanted to case a street he or she would have to physically go to that street and take photographs and notes ...

Now, all that person has to do is go to Google's street views .... to case out the most vulnerable homes on practically every street in San Francisco
This would only really work if GoogleMaps had a search term for find vulnerable houses, or more specifically find vulnerable houses with valuable contents.

Without that, the potential burglar would still have to scan through thousands and thousands of (not that detailed) images looking for clues. A very boring and probably fruitless task (after several hours of browsing they may find a house with a vulnerable looking door, but the Google images won't tell them about the dog that barks every time someone approaches)

Daft idea I know, but could the StreetView also be useful for investigating crime too ?
If the StreetView has enough information in it to be useful for criminals to case a street, could it also be useful to the police in looking for clues to investigate a crime ? Say the police took a list of the 100 most recent burglaries and put them into GoogleMaps, could they use the images to try to find for common features of the houses ?

As I said, a daft idea and probably not that useful, but the point I'm trying to make is that GoogleMaps StreeView is yet another useful tool [full stop].
One that can be used for both good and bad things.

Both the criminal and the police would probably get better information by visiting the street in question, but if it makes things easier for criminals to plan a crime, then it could also be equally useful for the police to investigate the crime.

Question is, do we want to restrict something that the rest of us find useful because perhaps some people may also find it useful to plan crimes too ? If so, then you might as well ban the whole internet thing ... and printed street maps, and address books ... because criminals probably find those useful too.

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

Dokterdok (961082) | more than 6 years ago | (#19488141)

There are two problems with those Google pictures: - There are more people who can see you on the internet than in the street - The picture remains available Now take the exemple of the man who appeared on a picture walking out of a strip club with his face recognizable in hi-def. A bit embarrassing.

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#19489187)

Now take the exemple of the man who appeared on a picture walking out of a strip club with his face recognizable in hi-def. A bit embarrassing.

If you don't want people to know what you're doing, don't do it in public...

Sure, it would be embarrassing, but it's not something you can (legally) be fired for, and if your wife/gf gets mad at you for it, well then you shouldn't have been there in the first place, should you?

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19489025)

"Google streeview is dangerous because it lets people rob my house" You might as well say "Cameras are dangerous, as they allowed Google to do streetview" or "As the victim of a recent stabbing I have realized how dangerous knives are. We should ban all cutlery." It's reactions like this, where people let one potential bad use of a normally useful or harmless thing get them all riled up that gets us policiess like banning drinks and finger nail clippers from the airport. Yeesh.

Re:aggregation and availability are the problems (1)

ghyd (981064) | more than 6 years ago | (#19491709)

By here most houses have gardens. With Google Earth's precision one could easily plan easy access to lots of houses, which in this case is far worst than a front view. So, well, it's technology, we have to do with it, because I feel that it would be a disservice to forbid Google Earth, or to make laws so that all views of the world become private in some ways, out of fear.

only 18 mths? (1)

skrew (111096) | more than 6 years ago | (#19484863)

Phew! That makes me feel better.... ...not
I think the bigger issue here is not how long google holds privacy invading data on all of our web browsing habits (and email, personal calendar and personal documents via gmail's all-inclusive new features) which is scary, but the fact that the government is doing all of the above via secretly subpoeaning ISP's, apparently they have the ability to monitor all traffic and reconstruct data as viewed on targeted clients from packet stream analysis and tying it in with every other database they are building:

In 2002, for example, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)--the same branch of the Pentagon that created the beginnings of the Internet--proposed an ambitious Internet surveillance system termed Total Information Awareness (TIA). TIA would, according to DARPA, not only allow access to the content of virtually the whole Internet, but would enable the government to integrate that information with data gained by virtually any other means: wiretaps, criminal and other public records, on-line shopping habits, credit-card use, auto-mated tollbooth data, cell-phone calling records, and so on. TIA bids for information omniscience.

In the meantime, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) routinely employs the Carnivore program for Internet surveillance of individuals. Carnivore, whose use has been publicly acknowledged by the FBI since June 2000, is classified as a "high-speed packet sniffer" (a term explained below). It is part of a larger surveillance toolbox called the Dragonware Suite. Dragonware is comprised of three software tools: Carnivore, Packeteer, and Coolminer. No public information about Packeteer and Coolminer is available, but some experts assert that these programs organize the information collected by Carnivore and analyze it for various patterns (probably under the guidance of human users).

(from http://www.answers.com/topic/internet-surveillance [answers.com])

Tie this all in patriot act, they can get all this without a warrant, and detain you indefinitely without trial...

Do you feel safe? Do you trust them not to misuse these broad powers?

I predict the Next Big Meme... (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19487361)

...will be going around areas that haven't been Street Viewed with t-shirts, signs, costumes and/or other silliness on the chance that they'll be "immortalized" by Google. HI MOM!

Quickies? (1)

Mathness (145187) | more than 6 years ago | (#19488197)

Quickies? That is either a subtle hint in the title or a freudian slip. But the title seems fitting in that it suggests Google gave privacy a quick shag. :)

Privavy and Obscurity (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 6 years ago | (#19494487)

All this bitching about google's harm to privacy is really ridiculous.

For starters it is just a mistake to say that google is causing a loss of privacy. Privacy is what you lose when someone peers in your window while your having sex. You haven't lost any privacy, merely obscurity, if someone takes your picture while you are having sex in the public park. Google tells you upfront what information it's collecting and what it's doing with it so you can hardly claim you thought it was totally private and heck it even lets you control alot of the info they have (delete things from search history). Moreover, it isn't like google is somehow invasively tracking information that other companies don't capture, you are just worried they will keep it longer.

Moreover, the real harm would be if people weren't aware that their activities and clickstreams online were probably being monitored. Either you have to admit that google poses no particular privacy risk or you think that without google people would feel that their online activities were anonymous and not being tracked, the net result of which being that people wouldn't even realize that if they wanted to keep their activities a total secret they better use something like Tor.
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