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Google Sued Over Privacy Invasion On Street View

Soulskill posted about 6 years ago | from the by-boring-couple dept.

Google 481

mikkl666 writes "A couple from Pittsburgh has sued Google because a photo of their house appeared on Google Street View. They are demanding in excess of $25,000 to make up for the 'mental suffering' and the diminished value of their home. Their street is apparently marked with a 'Private Road' sign, and they claim that putting a photo of their property online is an 'intentional and/or grossly reckless invasion' of their privacy. Google, on the other hand, claims that this lawsuit is pointless since anyone can ask them to have pictures removed without legal action. We've previously discussed some of the privacy concerns surrounding Street View."

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481 comments

Diminished Value? (0)

Aaron Isotton (958761) | about 6 years ago | (#22979384)

While I can somehow understand the 'mental suffering' part - although 25000$ seems very excessive - I don't see how their home should suffer from "diminished value".

Their home is going to be worth *more* if anything (more visibility = more famous = more value).

Re:Diminished Value? (2, Funny)

AaxelB (1034884) | about 6 years ago | (#22979452)

I don't see how their home should suffer from "diminished value". Their home is going to be worth *more* if anything (more visibility = more famous = more value).
It might be more of a subjective metric for "value." Their names are "Aaron and Christine Boring" (I glanced at TFA, so sue me), so more visibility = more exciting place to live = not boring.

Especially after this lawsuit, they'll have to get the hell out of there to live up to their name.

Re:Diminished Value? (5, Insightful)

jrumney (197329) | about 6 years ago | (#22979462)

Presumably they see some of the value in their house being in the fact that it is on a "private" road. Google's images demonstrate how little that is really worth, thus lowering the value of their property.

Re:Diminished Value? (3, Funny)

schon (31600) | about 6 years ago | (#22979580)

the fact that it is on a "private" road. Google's images demonstrate how little that is really worth
So in other words, they're angry at Google for pointing out their own stupidity?

Re:Diminished Value? (3, Informative)

DRACO- (175113) | about 6 years ago | (#22979624)

Blah, have they even looked at street view? The images obtained are a joke. Unless the vehicle drive right up within 15 ft of something the images are grossly unfocused beyond 15 ft.

Private Roads (3, Informative)

qbzzt (11136) | about 6 years ago | (#22979606)

In Texas a private road is defined as one maintained privately, as opposed to a public road that is maintained by a government (municipal, county, state, or federal). Usually the residents who use the road share the responsibility to maintain it.

I assume in Pennsylvania it's the same. If you don't want people driving on a road, you need to mark it as such. Put a gate, or a sign forbidding unauthorized access.

Re:Diminished Value? (5, Informative)

mikael (484) | about 6 years ago | (#22979642)

If you look at Google maps [google.com] , you can see quite clearly that their house is at the end of a private road. The Google road crew drove onto private property, continuing to take high resolution photographs before turning round and going back the way they came.

A road sign clearly indicated that this was a private road. Maybe Google's road crew didn't understand English, took a wrong turning, or their maps were out of date. Since they took photographs every 10 metres or so, having a photograph of their property is not going to affect its value by any significant amount.

This really does amount to trespass and invasion of privacy. Any individual is free to walk the streets of their neighborhood and take photographs, so long as they don't enter private property. But as soon as they wander into their neighbors driveways and gardens, neighbors would be justified in calling the Police, and getting them to be given a warning or to be arrested.

Re:Diminished Value? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979728)

Google's defense may be that Google mapping should be treated under the law as a public utility service.

Re:Diminished Value? (1)

MrNaz (730548) | about 6 years ago | (#22979732)

On an entirely separate note, why are we so suspicious of one another that we live in legally constructed imaginary fortresses upon which the mere presence of somebody else causes us to go berserk?

Personally, I'd prefer to live in a place where people I didn't know came to visit me all the time. In fact, I actively try to solicit that [couchsurfing.com] .

Re:Diminished Value? (4, Informative)

schon (31600) | about 6 years ago | (#22979782)

If you look at Google maps, you can see quite clearly that their house is at the end of a private road.
No. I looked at Google maps, and all I can see quite clearly is that the house is at the end of a road. There is no indication that it's private at all.

A road sign clearly indicated that this was a private road.
Really? I couldn't see that sign from the link you provided.

This really does amount to trespass and invasion of privacy.
You haven't proven that, but assuming that there is a sign, and the mappers were guilty of tresspassing, how the hell do you explain the absurd charges?

If this really was about tresspassing, you'd think that the property owners would have sued for that, instead of this "mental anguish" and "reduced property value" bullshit.

Re:Diminished Value? (5, Insightful)

STrinity (723872) | about 6 years ago | (#22979854)

After seeing the map, I think the owners have a point -- the private road is essentially their driveway, and they have a line of trees screening their house from outside view. These people want privacy, and Google violated it. I don't know if it's worth $25,000, but on top of the incident where the Google Street View van drove onto a military base in contravention of Google's rules, I think this is a sign that the people taking the pictures are inadequately trained and lack common sense.

nah, there is no diminished value (1)

someone1234 (830754) | about 6 years ago | (#22979674)

Nor mental suffering.
This whole hype is to pump up the value of their house.
Hope they will get some hate mail, so at least the mental suffering will be true.
They might suffer some mental problems, though. But that's not Google's fault.

I warned them (1, Interesting)

Metasquares (555685) | about 6 years ago | (#22979386)

I had the opportunity to speak with some people on the Maps team when I interviewed with Google and mentioned that they need to address the privacy issues of street view before someone sued them, whether it was technically illegal or not. They didn't listen, and I can't say I'm surprised by the result.

Re:I warned them (0, Troll)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 years ago | (#22979410)

Why should they have listened to you? You don't want into job interviews and start making demands of the company.

Re:I warned them (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#22979490)

Why should they have listened to you?

Perhaps because he was right, and the alternative was continuing to live in denial of the idea that anything Google does could possibly be wrong? Just read Google's view of the subject:

Google, on the other hand, claims that this lawsuit is pointless since anyone can ask them to have pictures removed without legal action.

Sure, but I bet they wouldn't have volunteered any compensation or accepted any penalty in recognition of the fact that they did do something wrong.

Google have become far too big for their boots in recent years. They need to be taught the meaning of respecting people's privacy, and now they're a shareholder-driven company, the most effective way to do that is to penalise them financially. If everyone who finds Google's Street View is unreasonably invading their privacy gets awarded a substantial sum of money then Google will learn that this behaviour is not acceptable and stop doing it. (Failing that, we should start locking up their directors, but obviously it's not likely to come to that.)

Personally, I believe any photograph taken without permission that looks into someone's home is an invasion of privacy. This is not at all the same situation as a neighbour casually passing by in the street, where no-one is both recording what they see and republishing it for the rest of the world in searchable form. Right now, a lot of our laws on things like privacy and data protection are well behind the curve in terms of technology. I can only hope that publicising a few more cases like Simon Bunce [bbc.co.uk] , where someone's entire life is wrecked because one leak of personal data snowballed into identity theft and all that implies, will wake up governments to the fact that big business's need to spam us all with advertising and keep our credit card numbers on file for... well, because they couldn't be bothered not to... is not more important then your right and mine to live a private life free from unwarranted scrutiny by all and sundry.

Personally, I hope the complainant gets the $25k in this case, not because I necessarily believe they suffered as much as their claims suggest, but because I think it would be healthy to have such a damaging precedent on file as a deterrent to Google and anyone else who thinks that just because they can collect and process vast amounts of data that means they have no ethical or legal obligations on how they do so.

Re:I warned them (4, Interesting)

csoto (220540) | about 6 years ago | (#22979612)

You have no expectation of privacy with regard to Google Street View photographs, or any other "shutterbug" snapping pictures on your street, provided the photos were taken from public property, and were not done in such a way as to grossly invade your space (telephoto lenses into your bathroom window, for example).

Here's a good article that points to guidelines from people who go to court to defend their members' rights to do what is in their rights (Google's Street View team would be wise to join up):

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkantor/2005-12-29-camera-laws_x.htm [usatoday.com]

From what I understand about the equipment and methods in use by the Google Street View project, I wouldn't expect them to be in violation of the "zoom lenses" provisions in any "invasion" statute in these states.

Re:I warned them (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#22979762)

I'm sorry, but you are spectacularly missing my point.

I do have an expectation of privacy in my own home. This expectation is born of common courtesy and acceptable polite behaviour. Moreover, I claim that I am far from the only person with such a view: if you walked along a street obviously going up to people's windows and taking detailed photographs of the inside of their home, do you not think a substantial number of them would also have a problem with this behaviour? The fact that Google is doing this far more disceetly does not change the nature of what they are doing, nor the feelings many people would have about it if they knew it was going on.

You are in essence making a legal argument: the law does not currently prohibit such abusive behaviour. I am making an ethical one: if that is so, then the law is broken.

Re:I warned them (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979676)

Privacy in respect to photos is all over the place, If I'd taken a photo of me and my girlfriend with my cellphone in which their house was in the background, should I have to pay 25.000$ to them due to damageing their mental health? Calling google evil simple because they are big is just stupid. They aren't doing anything evil here, It's not like they sat at a desk an planned to take pictures of everyones houses thus deevaluating the market and eventually taking over the world. This is just a case of some gready people looking for easy money.

Re:I warned them (-1, Troll)

Moryath (553296) | about 6 years ago | (#22979686)

Google have become far too big for their boots in recent years.

Indeed. Trying to get their crappy, browser-crashing "toolbar" included in every download (Adobe Reader, Sun Java, etc) was just the beginning.

But that was piddly, realplayer-style evil.

This? While they have a form (if you spend a ton of time hunting for them, not "readily available" as they claim) to try to remove an image, they still force you to go through a whole ton of paperwork just to assert your privacy rights. And there is no equivalent to remove your house from their satellite stuff if you so desire.

Plus, reviewing the photos makes it pretty obvious that whoever was taking the photos drove all the way up to the house.

People "love" Google for handing them free widgets - but then again, they can also be used for ridiculous false propaganda [haaretz.com] and Google's never corrected anything shown false on any of their tools, particularly when they can vilify Israel by keeping it up (see also the listing of the Temple Mount as "Palestinian", the listing of Gaza to this day as "Israeli Occupied" when it's run by Hamas terrorists after Israeli forces left years ago, and on and on).

Their "News service" is biased the same way - they'll run Hezbollah and Hamas "newspapers" but not western news organizations that catch those groups lying every day.

And then with Google owning YouTube, all of a sudden videos intended to counter Islamic Supremacist groups are being removed for "violation of terms of service", while videos of Jihadi nutcases put out by terror groups stay up for weeks on end.

Oh, and they'll put up all sorts of kitschy front page images for days in remembrance of canadian "Remembrance Day", and countless other days year-round, but they stuck the middle finger to US Veterans' Day and Memorial Day.

And of course, there was the torrent of anti-Bush ads at the same moment they rejected ads on a book which took Hillary down a peg or two.

Don't forget how in-bed they are with the Chinese "great firewall of China" in shutting down free speech over there.

I think Google long ago crossed the line. "Don't Be Evil"? They've moved past Vader all the way to Palpatine.

Re:I warned them (1)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 6 years ago | (#22979750)

>Their "News service" is biased the same way - they'll run Hezbollah and Hamas "newspapers" but not western news organizations that catch those groups lying every day.

Sorry, but you are wrong here. I do critique Google, but I happen to like their news service. The reality with their news service is that they link EVERYBODY.

What I see in your posting is that you want to say is Google is anti-Bush and anti-conservative. Sorry, but you are reading too much into that.

Re:I warned them (2, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | about 6 years ago | (#22979770)

I'm not usually a proponent of psychoactive drugs, but when objections to Google Street View turn into a geo political rant and ideological spleen venting about power politics in a war zone, then I think a Valium is definitely called for.

Re:I warned them (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#22979800)

And there is no equivalent to remove your house from their satellite stuff if you so desire.

Not unless you are, say, the US Government, that is. Apparently their right to privacy extends to not having photographs of their facilities publicly available.

There should be a constitutional rule that says no government or corporate body may ever have a right not universally available to an individual citizen. If something is important enough for the guys with power and money to protect, it's important enough to protect it for everyone else, too.

Re:I warned them (2, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 6 years ago | (#22979740)

One of the things that Google needs to change is the behavior, "we do first, and you can remove later."

It sort of reminds me of the idea, "hey I will walk along the neighborhood and attempt to open all doors and see which ones are unlocked. Of course if you tell me after the fact then I will not do it again later on."

So why does Google do this? Simple, its their entire business model. Think about. Imagine if Google had to get the OK from everybody before submitting pictures, web search, and book contents. That would absolutely kill their revenue.

Re:I warned them (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#22979836)

Imagine if Google had to get the OK from everybody before submitting pictures, web search, and book contents. That would absolutely kill their revenue.

Yes, it probably would. But some things are reasonable and generally inoffensive, and some things are pretty clearly illegal and/or unethical. "It would spoil my business model" is never an excuse for doing the latter. If enforcing your right to privacy and mine happens to destroy a market for people who collect and resell personal data about us so other people can spam us with advertising we don't care about, that's just too bad.

Re:I warned them (1)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 6 years ago | (#22979848)

I don't think that you are wrong. It's just that there is this gray zone that Google is exploiting right now. And they will tend to err on the side of "let's push it more for our own benefit."

I think what Google really buggered up is the street sign that said private road. That they should have caught.

Re:I warned them (1)

pitdingo (649676) | about 6 years ago | (#22979766)

so what happens if I am having a family BBQ in my backyard and we take some pictures? Am i invading your privacy because your house is in the background?

Incidental photography is very different (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#22979912)

I think that's a totally different situation.

For one thing, presumably any image of my house is incidental: you were photographing your friends and family at a barbecue, not deliberately going up to my house just to photograph it.

For another, your photo probably doesn't record much detail from inside my house through the windows or doors caught in your shot.

Next, presumably such images are for your own private use, and not for general distribution to the public.

Finally, you're not systematically going about getting pictures of everyone's houses and building a searchable database of the lot. With a lot of privacy issues, the existence of one piece of data is only a small part of the problem, and the greater danger is in the systematic collection and data mining of lots of such data.

These issues are rarely black and white, but comparing taking an incidental picture of someone's own home for private use to Google's behaviour with Street View is like comparing quoting a small excerpt from a book in a review for critical purposes with industrial copying and redistribution of the entire work. One of those we consider reasonable and inoffensive, and the law in most places provides a pretty clear exception for it. The other we consider unreasonable, and it is illegal in most places.

Re:I warned them (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 years ago | (#22979556)

You don't want into job interviews... should read rather You don't walk into job interviews....

Re:I warned them (1, Interesting)

Metasquares (555685) | about 6 years ago | (#22979562)

They asked me how Google's services could be improved. It wasn't a demand, it was a suggestion, and one that seems to have turned out to be a good one.

Re:I warned them (2, Insightful)

GIL_Dude (850471) | about 6 years ago | (#22979814)

Right, but they ask you that as a way to find out if you have any ideas that may make you useful to them as a new hire - to see if you think beyond the box or beyond "make search better". As someone who has to do some amount of interviewing for a company of 60,000 people - I can tell you that is the type of question I may ask folks. But if I thought you had a good idea on something, I could take it to my manager, who could take it to their manager, who could send it to the "guy in charge of that". Any step along the way the idea could get quashed, ignored by someone "too busy" or morphed into something else resembling someone's pet project that now has "vetting from an outside party".

I don't think it is a reasonable assumption that you told the legal and technical teams that actually work on Google Streets anything . You certainly tried to tell them something - but that message getting to anyone who could act on it is probably vanishingly small.

lol.. (4, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#22979392)

I just love it when people grab any occasion to try to sue as much money as they can from large (and rich) companies, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. A chance these companies also have dozens of lawyers for whenever that happens.

Opt out? (4, Insightful)

dnoyeb (547705) | about 6 years ago | (#22979430)

I don't like opt-out memberships. The ability for companies to get away with opt-out usually comes from legislation. Not simple company choice.

Just look at McDonald's (1)

Doug52392 (1094585) | about 6 years ago | (#22979524)

I remember when people were trying to sue McDonald's because they said the restaurant made them fat... gotta love America!

Re:lol.. (1)

fyoder (857358) | about 6 years ago | (#22979714)

I just love it when people grab any occasion to try to sue as much money as they can from large (and rich) companies, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.
As much as they can? 25 grand? From Google? That's petty cash to them. I wonder how they arrived at such a strangely low figure. Perhaps they figured if they kept it low Google would simply cut them a cheque and tell them to piss off and stop bothering them.

Re:lol.. (1)

Lunarsight (1053230) | about 6 years ago | (#22979820)

I just love it when people grab any occasion to try to sue as much money as they can from large (and rich) companies, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. A chance these companies also have dozens of lawyers for whenever that happens.
This is more than just a McDonalds 'hot coffee' sort of lawsuit.

I saw this one coming from a mile away.

The level of detail is incredible. A co-worker had mine had typed her phone number into Google, and from there it let her pull up an image of the front of her house. She could even read the license plate off her car. (It's also a full panoramic view - you can spin the mouse and see in all directions.)

It's a -fascinating- idea that Google has come up with, but there's definitely serious room for abuse here.

Re:lol.. (2, Interesting)

value_added (719364) | about 6 years ago | (#22979906)

I just love it when people grab any occasion to try to sue as much money as they can from large (and rich) companies, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.

And I just love it when people make inflammatory, knee-jerk statements (and then get modded as "insightful" by those similarly inclined) suggesting that a lawuit of $25K is the same as as much as they can, then go on to imply that the basis for that suit was a large (and rich) compan[y].

Look, their residence was on a private road. Chances are if you value your privacy, this is where you'd choose to live. And if you can afford to live there, chances are equally good that you'd be inclined to defend that privacy. Taken in that light, bringing suit for $25K is as low as it is fair, even more so considering it would cause financial hardship to no one, but could make up for your perceived invasion of privacy.

There are some real (and interesting) issues in this case. Your post contributes nothing but noise to that discussion.

I don't like that defense (5, Interesting)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 6 years ago | (#22979394)

Telling people that there is no damage because you can ask for something to be removed is silly IMO, that doesn't cover the time it was up until the request was followed and I dislike the idea of opt-out in general, asking someone for permission should happen BEFORE acting, not just acting and telling people they have to come to you to revoke their permission.

Re:I don't like that defense (1, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#22979402)

asking someone for permission should happen BEFORE acting

Yeah, that is just so feasible when what you're doing is taking pictures of EVERY SINGLE BUILDING AND HOUSE IN A LARGE CITY. Well maybe not every single one, but you get my point..

Re:I don't like that defense (3, Informative)

mmcuh (1088773) | about 6 years ago | (#22979498)

asking someone for permission should happen BEFORE acting

Yeah, that is just so feasible when what you're doing is taking pictures of EVERY SINGLE BUILDING AND HOUSE IN A LARGE CITY. Well maybe not every single one, but you get my point..

Then maybe they shouldn't do that?

Re:I don't like that defense (1, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 years ago | (#22979552)

They are doing "pictures" of almost every web site out there right now. Did they ask all the web site owners? No? Then maybe they shouldn't do that!

Re:I don't like that defense (2, Insightful)

Metasquares (555685) | about 6 years ago | (#22979586)

There's a difference: the primary purpose of a website is to attract viewers. I don't walk outside so people can take photos of me.

Re:I don't like that defense (4, Insightful)

Troed (102527) | about 6 years ago | (#22979798)

... but you do treat the outside of your house with the expectation that others (random people) will look at it and admire it/you.

Re:I don't like that defense (1)

thegnu (557446) | about 6 years ago | (#22979916)

right, but not so that they will upload pictures of it to the internet. that's why the website is different. and they're NOT taking pictures of the damn site anyway.

So should someone print on the outside of their house:
NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW

Re:I don't like that defense (4, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | about 6 years ago | (#22979594)

My generation has really taken to heart the old adage "It's easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission". Just another symptom of our society's growing sense of entitlement and disrespect of others' personal property and privacy.

Re:I don't like that defense (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | about 6 years ago | (#22979822)

Then maybe they shouldn't do that?

What about all of us that want to be on Google maps? I thought it was cute that our street was on Google maps. There is nothing invasive about taking a picture of your house. Unless, they stick a camera in your window or hope a fence then most persons will have no problem with someone just taking a picture of their house.

I think the sticking picture of this incident was that in order to take a picture they had to go past a sign that said "Private Property" which is trespassing.

Re:I don't like that defense (4, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | about 6 years ago | (#22979468)

First, it appears that no attempt to request the images be removed was made.

Second, doing shit like this only makes it worse [wikipedia.org] . If there really was any concern over privacy then this is by far the worst thing you could do to protect it.

Third, I would love so hear how taking pictures of a property devalues it. At best you can charge them with trespassing since it was private property - a criminal charge which would probably be more effective at changing Google's policies than a civil suit - but you can't get any cash out of a criminal charge.

In other words, this has all the seemings of someone who decided to look up their own house on Street View and thought "free money!"
=Smidge=

Re:I don't like that defense (2, Funny)

Megane (129182) | about 6 years ago | (#22979598)

Third, I would love so hear how taking pictures of a property devalues it.

I'd like to hear it too. Because apparently Google took pictures of MY house late last year, taking a picture of my old garage door with its missing window pane, and a big pile of leaves on the driveway. If they don't read my mind and update the picture the moment I think there's a problem with it, maybe I should sue?

Re:I don't like that defense (1)

westlake (615356) | about 6 years ago | (#22979882)

Third, I would love so hear how taking pictures of a property devalues it.

Talk to a realtor who deals in estate homes. Owners of these properties tend to be really, really, prickly about intrusions on their privacy - and safety.

Re:I don't like that defense (2, Interesting)

iamhigh (1252742) | about 6 years ago | (#22979478)

I can understand your point. Doing something and saying "but you can have it reversed at a later date" doesn't mean you are free and clear of doing the wrong thing in the first place. But...

Google has the option of removing the pictures... it is a courtesy. They are doing this as a service to the public with (IMHO) no ill will. So just ask for your pics to be removed and move on... really who would have found the pictures before they made all this stink? Only those that knew about where they lived, their address and had some reason to be curious about them. Those people could have just drove there anyways (with regular google map technology), so should we be suing over that as well? Google is a kind neighbor at this point, and they act like one by letting you request removal. So be a good neighbor and just ask for removal and move on with your life... suing is so lame at this point.

I used street view the other day to see what the drive to a location I had never been to would look like. And sure enough it came in handy as I remembered what landmarks looked like from the street (which probably wouldn't have happened from the satellite view). I see the usefulness and I don't want to see it go away.

Re:I don't like that defense (5, Insightful)

tkrotchko (124118) | about 6 years ago | (#22979546)

It's more like

"There is no damage".

Boom. End of sentence. I would say there is no expectation of privacy from outer space or from the street. It's not reasonable.

As for "Mental Anguish", I suffer a lot of mental anguish every day that I'm in traffic. Who do I sue? And only $25K for mental anguish. Either they didn't have a lot of anguish or they don't have a lot of mental.

As for the diminished value of their house, it sounds like they're looking for Google to reimburse them for the downturn in the market that has cut housing values from 1/4 to 3/4's (depending on where you live).

Overall, this is the kind of lawsuit that makes you think the world is overpopulated. On so many levels.

Re:I don't like that defense (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 6 years ago | (#22979638)

It's more like: "There is no damage".
Yes. It was a mistake IMHO for google to use the weak argument that people can opt out. The stronger argument is: "the outside of your house is outside and it's none of your business if we photograph it." Letting people opt out is good PR but I doubt they're legally required to do so. As an amateur photographer the idea of having to get permission from every person who owns something that falls into one of my pictures is terrifying - and utterly pointless!

If a photo decreases the value of their precious home, maybe they should quit yapping and do some yard work.

Re:I don't like that defense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979920)

I'd like to sue Google Streets for not having a picture of my house with a for sale sign in high resolution. Oh, and their satellite map clearly doesn't have enough resolution (you can't get my neighborhood at the highest resolution; it says "sorry" if you try) to show my awesome pool and help with my sale. They've obviously decreased my chances of selling in favor of some other folks in another area where they DO show a high res photo of the property complete with for sale sign and also the closeup satellite showing the area. Oh, and the lower res satellite image they DO have of my place is about 10 years old based on the areas that are empty fields (where Staples, Orchard Supply, Wal-Mart and Home Depot are). That's gotta count for something too.

Facetious? You betcha. Ludicrous? Yep. But then so is this whole claim of lowering their value and the mental anguish thing that these boring folks have made.

Re:I don't like that defense (1)

itlurksbeneath (952654) | about 6 years ago | (#22979692)

Wait a sec... Was the picture taken from public property? I fail to see how anyone, as a citizen or representative of a public company, could get sued for taking pictures as long as you're not trespassing or violating any laws. If you drive down a (public) street and take a picture of a house and post it on your blog you can get sued? WTF?

Maybe the morons from the lawsuit should sue their mail man and paper boy. They've SEEN the house! Obviously anybody that gazes on their house is violating their privacy. I don't see how what Google's doing is not covered by the typical photographer's rights [krages.com] . Another good site [rcfp.org] for photographer's rights.

Re:I don't like that defense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979840)

Maybe you should read the article before making assumptions or calling people morons ?

Don't go there. (5, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | about 6 years ago | (#22979400)

Here's what makes this case different than the other StreetView suits... the Google van wasn't supposed to be on this road in the first place. A private road means that the owners of the road take no government funding or care for it, and therefore get to decide who they'll allow on it. Google wasn't wanted, so there's the problem.

Re:Don't go there. (4, Interesting)

Smallpond (221300) | about 6 years ago | (#22979440)

Unless the street is posted "No trespassing" then I don't see how it makes much difference whether its a public or private street. Under PA law (ob. IANAL) if it isn't posted, you'uns can go there. By the way, my guess is that these people moved to Pittsburgh from out of state. PA folks aren't very lawsuit-happy in general.

Re:Don't go there. (2, Interesting)

Arslan ibn Da'ud (636514) | about 6 years ago | (#22979520)

I'm no lawyer either, but what if there is a 'no trespass' sign that is obscured by foliage? Lots of street signs are hidden or covered by leaves during the summer, and last I checked the Google StreetView photos are taken during the summer months. I've a sneaking suspicion the lawbooks don't say what happens then. That's a lawyer bonanza, though not much good for the family or Google.

Re:Don't go there. (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about 6 years ago | (#22979718)

It's the landowner's responsibility to post and maintain signs. One sign would not cut it on open land, you have to post the whole perimeter. However the law distinguishes settled land from open land, so maybe the rules are different. Of course, your rights to the land are limited. Nobody in Pittsburgh owns the mineral rights under their own homes, for example. Those were all sold out from under them 200 years ago.

Re:Don't go there. (1)

portnoy (16520) | about 6 years ago | (#22979864)

Perhaps, although since the lawsuit makes no mention of there being a "No Trespass" sign (even in the section that mentions laws of Trespass), I suspect there is no such sign, obscured by foliage or not.

Re:Don't go there. (1)

caseih (160668) | about 6 years ago | (#22979812)

Under some state's laws, a private road just means that you happen to maintain the road. Whether or not people can access that road is another issue entirely. In Utah, for example, if the road allows public access continually over a period of years, then you permanently lose the ability to control who accesses this road. IE you can still tow people who park on the road, but you can never ban anyone from driving on the road. One large private university completely blocks off campus every couple of years so that it's roads, which link to city roads, can still be privately controlled if desired. Hence I don't think it's illegal in many states for Google's contractors to drive down any private road that normally allows public access, and take pictures. If the road was behind a gate, that's another story. But it does not appear to be the case in this situation.

Now, naturally, I'm curious to see a picture of this incredible house that's worth so much, and maybe even this couple so I can judge for myself how much anguish they have suffered!

Re:Don't go there. (2, Interesting)

Emmef (803757) | about 6 years ago | (#22979450)

Here's what makes this case different than the other StreetView suits... the Google van wasn't supposed to be on this road in the first place.
So sue them for damages arising from unlawful trespassing. But I don't see how this makes the invasion of privacy case any different from others.

Re:Don't go there. (1)

DonkeySpew (683848) | about 6 years ago | (#22979496)

Fine, but how does that relate to mental suffering or a diminished home value. To me, that sounds like trespassing (a criminal issue) and is completely unrelated to the pictures from a legal perspective (though IANAL).

Re:Don't go there. (1)

ajs (35943) | about 6 years ago | (#22979530)

What makes this case different:

* Claim of suffering due to image of house on Web
* Claim of property value loss due to image of house on Web
* Use of courts to resolve issue that one fax could have taken care of

Beyond that, this seems to be same-old, same-old.

Next!

Re:Don't go there. (1)

ajs (35943) | about 6 years ago | (#22979540)

Side question: what is slashdot's posting system doing? They just sent this to my Web server when I posted the above comment:

66.35.250.150 - - [06/Apr/2008:10:07:27 -0400] "GET http://yro.slashdot.org/ok.txt HTTP/1.0" 404 285 "-" "libwww-perl/5.803"
What are they trying to do?

Re:Don't go there. (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | about 6 years ago | (#22979680)

If it was a private road the google van would not have been able to drive onto it.

You cant just connect your own road to the public network and expect people to stay off it while its wide open.

Am I going to be sued by turning around in someones drive way?

Re:Don't go there. (1)

Dredd13 (14750) | about 6 years ago | (#22979772)

You cant just connect your own road to the public network and expect people to stay off it while its wide open.


Actually, you can. There are plenty of jurisdictions where "Private Road" means "No trespassing".

Re:Don't go there. (1)

pitdingo (649676) | about 6 years ago | (#22979738)

i hate to let facts get in the way of your fantasy but...the road the Google Van was on is public property. The people suing have a long driveway which they have marked as "Private Drive". The Google Van was _not_ on their driveway.

Thank you google! (3, Insightful)

Vampyre_Dark (630787) | about 6 years ago | (#22979446)

Google never ceases to teach me new things. I guess it's okay to do impolite things as long as I remind the victim that they could have asked me to stop at any time.

How long until google is indexing my underwear drawer?

Re:Thank you google! (2, Interesting)

BountyX (1227176) | about 6 years ago | (#22979500)

There are many benefits to what google is doing...but pretty much anything they touch loses its virginity...I mean privacy. Thousands of private servers have been indexed on google becuase people dont understand the privacy issues created by indexing information (infact whenever I need the latest [INSERT SOFTWARE HERE] and I need good download speeds becuase torrents are too slow... I just google index of /[INSERT FILE FROM INSTALL HERE]. Most private servers are completly unaware they have been indexed. Google aspires to be an all-knowing thing. Guess what, if you know everything, theres nothing private about that. I believe that a centralized information resource such as google is on a fast track to dangerous. That indexed information should be deleted after a certain time.

Re:Thank you google! (1)

jchawk (127686) | about 6 years ago | (#22979596)

Let me get this straight?

I put a server on the internet.

I don't password protect it.

I don't even bother to put a robots.txt file, which google would respect.

I get indexed and it's googles fault?

I think it's the clueless person who put a server up on the internet and made it publicly available.

Re:Thank you google! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979648)

robots.txt

It's not difficult to do, just like it's not difficult to ask them not to photograph your house. Honestly, this case is analogous to the McDonalds-Hot-Coffee case - just because one idiot handles their coffee as well as they handle "personal responsibility", doesn't mean that everyone else should have to jump through hoops to suit them. If you want to be different - which these people do - they should learn that sometimes there's an expense for that choice, and that "expense" is about 2 minutes worth of time and a 32c fax.

Who's fault is it? (3, Informative)

celerityfm (181760) | about 6 years ago | (#22979448)

I dunno it seems like a case of bad judgment on the driver of the mapping vehicle. If you look at the pictures it seems like they drove right up to their garage, taking pictures the whole time.

It also seems like provider of the maps is also at fault, if you follow along on Google maps you can see that the street appears to extend all the way to their garage [google.com] .

But, there doesn't seem to be any "private road" labeling on the map nor was their any sign visible when I followed the street via Streetview to their house (though they did delete the offending pictures, so maybe the sign was there?)

Regardless though, I would expect that the drivers of these vehicles would know better then to keep the pictures they took of a property while parked in front of a garage.

Re:Who's fault is it? (1)

Megane (129182) | about 6 years ago | (#22979534)

Here in Texas, we have a much better solution for rural places like that: GATES. If there's a gate, or even just a cattle guard, it probably isn't a public road.

Re:Who's fault is it? (1)

hansamurai (907719) | about 6 years ago | (#22979660)

Well, there are eight mailboxes at the end of Oakridge Lane, that doesn't seem that private and there's no gate or private drive sign to ward off drivers. Also it looks like the street view extends to their driveway simply because they built their house at the end of the road.

Re:Who's fault is it? (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | about 6 years ago | (#22979662)

if you follow along on Google maps you can see that the street appears to extend all the way to their garage.
I noticed the exact same thing, except it looks like the area in front of their garage is the obligatory turnaround at the end of a one-lane road, so the road does, in fact, extend all the way to their garage. From what I can see, unless there's a sign, I would end up driving all the way up, just so I could turn around comfortably. Maybe the driver should have turned off the camera, but I think they had every right to be there. I'm not sure how much control the driver has over the camera, or if it just runs all day regardless, and they filter out the unnecessary shots later.

One more thing: the picture on the county website which they're okay with because it was taken from a "public street" was taken barely 100 feet from their garage, at a place that's obviously not the end of the road and not the beginning of a private road.

This whole lawsuit screams of greed. I think they just saw an opportunity to sue a big company and grabbed for it.

Ambulance Chasers (2, Funny)

Detritus (11846) | about 6 years ago | (#22979458)

I think the judge should have a big red button on the bench, connected to a solenoid and trap-door located under the plaintiff and his lawyer. As volcanoes are in short supply, a pool full of hungry crocodiles would do.

Re:Ambulance Chasers (1)

eebra82 (907996) | about 6 years ago | (#22979600)

As volcanoes are in short supply, a pool full of hungry crocodiles would do.
You just lost Tom Cruise over that one.

I'm gonna sue my town! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979460)

I can go down to the courthouse and pull up any residence in town. Oh the suffering! Oh the property values!!

It comes down to visibility (2, Informative)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | about 6 years ago | (#22979464)

IANAL, however it seems like this should come down a question of visibility. Is the house visible from the street? Then it seems that publishing a photo that includes the house shouldn't be a problem. It would be different if it were a close-up photo of the house, or one looking inside it, but if it's just the same view available to a passer-by, what's the harm? My only question is whether the 'Private Road' sign could cause problems. What's a 'private road?' Do the residents pave it and light it, or is it really a public road maintained by the municipality with a sign that discourages visitors?

This reminds me a bit of companies that place security guards to stop people from photographing their buildings. My reaction has always been that you shouldn't put a building in a public place if you don't want it to be photographed.

Re:It comes down to visibility (1)

jchawk (127686) | about 6 years ago | (#22979502)

I'm not saying I agree with this lawsuit however I think their point is that the van entered their property and took photos which they published online.

The view that the Allegheny County website can be see here -

http://tinyurl.com/4fxjxq [tinyurl.com]

Seems to be taken from the road.

These images, specifically the ones on the bottom appear to be taken on their property -

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0404081google7.html [thesmokinggun.com]

My first impression of this is the van turned around in their lot and some of those pictures ended up online.

I think this couple is looking for a payday. Google allows you to have images removed from their StreetView, I don't think this couple ever bothered to ask.

"A five car garage and a two bedroom house." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979480)

The question is: "You might be a redneck if ..."

They're just pissed they've been outed as white trash.

Diminshed Value? (2, Insightful)

pinguwin (807635) | about 6 years ago | (#22979494)

First off, I don't understand how their home value is diminished. Second, even if it is, so what? If Google is engaging in legal acts (making that assumption), why is it Google's concerns for their home value? I've always questioned this "property value" argument when others are engaging in legal behavior. If painting my purple polka dots on my house that are allowed by local statute, diminishes your home by $25, it's not my problem, it's yours. Same goes for this house in question. Oh yeah, don't forget the Streisand Effect.

Mental Anguish? (2, Interesting)

dlc3007 (570880) | about 6 years ago | (#22979544)

What must your mental state be if a picture of your house appearing on the internet can cause you "mental anguish"? They either must have a very easy life to make this small matter appear relatively large, or they must be teetering on the brink of the abyss for something this small to be a threat.


Either way, they must have a very strange life




oh, yeah... I guess they could be looking to make a quick buck.

Doesn't matter what the sign says... (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | about 6 years ago | (#22979558)

...If the photographer/videographer is in a public place when they make the picture, they can tell people like this to kiss their rosy bum. The courts in many countries have spoken unequivocally on this. The case might be different if the entire road is on private property, but that doesn't sound like that's what's happening.

Microsoft Talking Parrot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979566)

Has Microsoft's Talking Parrot now moved to individuals to drain opposing corporations? I figured that program would rise again, but not in the form of an invisible bird perched on the shoulder. This is just an imaginary message from a dream world, my opinion based on an invented subreality, dismiss.

no case (1)

nguy (1207026) | about 6 years ago | (#22979574)

They don't have a case. Anyone can take pictures from a public location; if you don't want to be photographed, you have to put up a fence.

Contrary to what they claim, the road in question wasn't even clearly marked a "Private Road" (you can see that in street view itself; there's no sign anywhere).

However, Google has apparently voluntarily removed the images anyway, which makes their case collapse.

Microsoft: The Neverending Chair Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979668)

Remember that famous event where Gates appeared on a screen behind Jobs? It was then I knew Jobs had sold out to Microsoft. Hidden deals go on all the time. Don't be fooled, Apple/Mac may be seen as a rival or competitor, but IMO they sold out long ago. They are a "tolerated" rival. Anything to date in Microsoft's path has been bought, merged, absorbed, destroyed, scuttled, or blurred somehow. Linux is the current target, with a patent battle yet to come (you think Microsoft will lose in the land of the corporations? think again, we see how powerful MS remains and how ineffective the DOJ was in dealing with them as their monopoly continues on the desktop - tell me how many operating systems you can choose from preloaded on systems in how many computer stores other than Windows) as Microsoft circles the wagons of Linux companies buying protection. As Microsoft enters deeper into connections with US government (see recent LOC deal) other powerful players are being shut out (see recent IBM news).

I firmly believe the worse of Microsoft is yet to come. IMO, I believe Gates won't rest until he has worked his way into President of the United States or holding even more of a global grip on the world. Make no mistake, IMO as soon as Gates is away from Microsoft, expect to hear much more from him in the news about other issues, the compassion will start to flow, all the while Microsoft will reap the benefits.

This Old House (1)

Velcroman98 (542642) | about 6 years ago | (#22979736)

This story was posted to Fark earlier this week, and linked to The Smoking Gun. Apparently these people should sue their own government also, because the assessors office has a picture of the house online as well, complete with all the dimensions of the house/

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0404081google8.html [thesmokinggun.com]

These knuckleheads should have just done the opt-out and this whole thing would have been over. Now theyâ(TM)ve invoked the Streisand Effect and everyone in the world has seen their private house. They are most definitely in it just for the cash, who would give a rip about their crappy little home, it looks like a half step up from a broken down mobile-home.

This is the consequence of "opt out" systems (2, Interesting)

WCMI92 (592436) | about 6 years ago | (#22979752)

vs "Opt In"

Whenever a company operates from "consent by omission" (by not getting permission first, as in "opt in" they are opening themselves up for such questions.

Frankly, I dislike a lot of what Google is doing with this feature. There is a big difference between showing street level photos of commercial areas and residential areas. I think Google has crossed that line here.

If Google operated on an "opt in" basis they'd be using those photos with permission and thus, be immune from lawsuits.

Frankly, Google is acting more like Microsoft and less like Google of 4-5 years ago every day...

More pinheads who don't get it (0, Flamebait)

stratjakt (596332) | about 6 years ago | (#22979802)

I'm glad we have folks like you to white knight poor defenseless Google, but the fact is that these numbers people sue for are supposed to be PUNITIVE, not COMPENSATORY. They are supposed to punish. To punish Google, you sue for as much as possible to get publicity, to get the CEO to fucking notice that not everybody is signed up for his brave new world.

Google's agents, to take the photos they did, had to trespass. Even though this is a minor offense, it is still a crime, and do we really want corporations to be able to ignore laws they consider beneath them financially?

mental suffering!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22979826)

mental suffering! are you freakin kidding me?
they just showed your house.. they didn't blow it to bits! that's whats happening to houses in war torn countries in other parts of the world.
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