back to article Google's spycar revs up UK privacy fears

Google's Street View cars, which grab real photographs of streets and the people in them for the search giant's Maps service, have come under fire from privacy campaigners. The spycar has been spotted in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff. A Reg reader was kind enough to send us a snap of the snapper-car in London. The pictures the …

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Dear Mr Thomas

"Richard Thomas, UK ICO, said: "European data protection law is increasingly seen as out of date, bureaucratic and excessively prescriptive. It is showing its age and is failing to meet new challenges to privacy, such as the transfer of personal details across international borders and the huge growth in personal information online."

Maybe we want our data protection laws to be prescriptive. Maybe we want our personal data to be kept within our own national boundaries. Maybe we want our privacy!

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Anonymous Coward

ICO effectiveness

Yes, I'm sure the ICO will enforce the law on this in the same way that they have done with BT's illegal Phorm trials.

Mind you, if Google's engineers simply claim that it's too difficult for people to understand what they're doing, that appears to be a perfectly valid justification these days...

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Anonymous Coward

I think

That those that drive the cars and those who look at this "street" (read terrorist-peado) view are obviously terrorist peadophiles and the police should lock them all up.

I hope the government is all over this blatent risk.

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In E11 on Friday

I was surprised to see the spymobile in E11. Sadly it was coming out of a junction before I spotted it so I won't be immortalised. If I understand the law correctly people can take photos of you if you're in a public place, unless you are a paedo-terrorist taking photos of naked children in nuclear power plants.

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Anonymous Coward

Privacy International

Are basing their claim on Google "using peoples' faces to make money". Which is bollocks, frankly. They're not using the fact that there are people in the pictures any more than Televised sport owes anything to the people whose faces they focus on in the crowd, or the Beeb or any photograph library owes to the people whose faces are captured in crowd pics.

The faces are nothing to do with making the money and Google could erase everyone from their panoramas withoug impacting the usefulness of Street View and hence any revenue generated from associated advertising.

Chicken Little/Licken complaints like this do the privacy lobby no good whatsoever.

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Stop

To paraphrase...

"International Nuclear Non-Proliferation law is increasingly seen as out of date, bureaucratic and excessively prescriptive. It is showing its age and is failing to meet new challenges in international nuclear politics, such as the transfer of fissile materials across international borders and the huge increase in oil prices.

"It is high time the law is reviewed and updated for the modern world."

In other words, just because there is a legitimate reason for reform (countries frozen out of civil nuclear generation at a time when it is finally starting to look economical and possibly even necessary) doesn't mean we should let totalitarian foreign regimes get whatever they want. (Do you want the US to get the bomb? What do you mean "they've already got it"?!? What do you mean "don't panic"?!?!? We're all doomed!!!!)

Some parts of the privacy directive may make legitimate commerce more difficult, but I'd strongly object to Google being able to take pictures of anything and everything simply to make a quick buck.

If they're not willing to engage in an editorial process (yes, I know -- people! how disgusting! let's stick with nice clean computers) then any system they produce will be flawed and potentially damaging.

Google's line has always been "not my fault, mate! I'm just a computer!" Yeah, well guess what: there would be fewer mistakes if you actually employed people. So how can it *not* be their fault if their many court-worthy mistakes were caused by negligence?

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Thumb Down

So what?

Really, who gives a damn? What next, government-issue brown paper bags to put over our heads before we step out the front door, in case "they" find out where we're going?

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Unhappy

Nonsense

Typical red tape. So what if it's used for commercial purposes? It's not like they're taking your face and turning it into their logo. If I can walk down the street and see the same as what these street cars would see, then what's the difference? That woman with the thong - what's the difference if it's with my own eyes or through google streetview? Same with the dude pissing - if he's willing to be in public like that, then why would he claim it was an invasion of privacy if someone took a photo of him?

If people are scared to be seen then they shouldn't bother leaving the house in the morning

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"so, what can you photograph?" (reg)

so long as they aren't doing it in Trafalgar Sq or the Royal Parks, they're OK by me.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/23/police_photographer_stops/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/23/photography_law/

Or, are they creating "document or record containing information”... “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism"

matthew karas

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Flame

Mr Thomas

Has two out of three right. The European data protection laws are out of date and bureaucratic, but he is mind numbingly wrong about them being too prescriptive - they aren't strong enough.

Privacy law here will only be adequate when certain members of the civil service and government (those for the current ID card database, and those who leave laptops on trains) and the entire board of Phorm are locked up with no hope of parole.

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Anonymous Coward

Privacy?

If you want privacy, why don't you just stay indoors 24/7?

This is ridiculous really. Why can't they take photos and put them on a site? If you are out in public, there is every chance you could end up in a photo, and nothing you can do about it. Caught doing something embarrassing? Well, don't do embarrassing things.

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Flame

Why are we bothering?

Worrying about this when the EU is proposing that THEY control what applications we can use on the Internet?

It seems that once again people get up in arms other something that frankly is of little concern when a huge chunk of our Civil Liberties is potentially about to vanish

According to the FFI the proposals which will be voted on tomorrow would create 'a "Soviet internet" on which only software and services approved by governments would be allowed to run.

"Tomorrow, popular software applications like Skype or even Firefox might be declared illegal in Europe if they are not certified by an administrative authority,"'

If the Foogle car wants to come and take pictures of my front law then let them. I'd rather that than have my internet controlled by people who have been bought off by Microsoft.

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Ash
Joke

@Matthew Karas

Of course they're not. They're a multi-national company.

They only have your best interests at heart.

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Thumb Down

Aren't they *already* falling foul of the law?

Given that StreetView counts as publication, shouldn't they be requesting consent before making the pictures live? (Which would entail the kind of bureaucratic nightmare that would make them rethink the point of the entire thing, which I have yet to have explained to me in a way that doesn't have me responding "What a fucking waste of time").

On a more serious note, those who think that this isn't important should bear in mind that allowing people to take and publish your image without first requesting consent could have serious implications, not least when it comes to the right to retain control over how (and where) your likeness is used.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Privacy?

Come on - I don't think it's unreasonable to hope not to be at risk of ending up spread all over the internet because you leave the house now and then (and most embarrassing thing are accidental, no?). But even if that isn't realistic, I honestly don't get why people suddenly decide not to bother to value privacy at all just because it's harder to achieve these days, and it seems to be some kind of luxurious frippery. I don't know when it became normal to sneer at anyone who thinks privacy as a concept has intrinsic worth.

But then, people who think privacy is an outdated bit of bullshit and an unlamented casualty of tech advancement probably don't own underwear, and have one of those flippy-flappy old-person plastic-strip curtains instead of a bathroom door.

Meh.

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Anonymous Coward

saw it on friday

whilst having a smoke outside the pub.

gave the one fingered salute to all 3 cameras as it drove by.

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Go

Right there with you, Matthew Karas.

On the one hand we can't be complaining that the police are being heavy handed with people taking photographs in public places yet then get prissy about a google street view car.

If you are in public then you are in public and that's that. Don't want to be photographed pissing in the street? Don't do it then. Don't want your pants on display on the web? Don't put them on display in public then.

My only reservation is that the camera on top of the car should be no more than six feet from ground level to ensure that it does not see any more than what the general public walking along the pavement can see.

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Well it didn't catch my face last week

Just my single middle finger turned upright as it cut me up whilst I was struggling on my bike up highgate west hill.

Not sure they're software has a blur setting for "scary fat lycra clad swetting man."

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Stop

*sigh*

I think its a great idea. I've got no issues with being immortalised on Google.

I notice the same privacy people weren't vocal with the Satellite maps on Google Maps and other mapping systems like Live Maps. I was on an estate agents site and they use www.aboutmyplace.co.uk got one with really good detail from birds eye perspectives. I can see my car on that one! I can see my car (but not as much detail) on Google Maps too.

Let them do it - the quicker GPS systems can provide photographic street views etc the better. Sick of people holding up good technology with claims terrorism and "think of the children".

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Spycar?

It's got a chuffing great piece of scaffolding on the top covered in cameras? If it was a "spy" it wouldn't be very succesful.

I'm reminded of Homer Simpson's attempt to catch Apu selling dodgy food with a giant camera concealed in a huge cowboy hat - it was not exactly subtle.

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In the US, anyway

As long as the photos are being taken from public property (i.e. government controlled street), and are not being taken of restricted subjects (i.e. nuclear weapon storage facilities) then the whiners don't have a leg to stand on. You're in public. You can be photographed. End of discussion.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Spycar?

>>I'm reminded of Homer Simpson's attempt to catch Apu selling dodgy food with a giant camera concealed in a huge cowboy hat - it was not exactly subtle.

Worked though didn't it.

"But this is just between me and you. Smashed hat."

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Paris Hilton

Screw google

A lot of people mention the fact that its perfectly legal to take pictures in a public place (e.g Roadwars on Sky One). The thing is, these cameras aren't restricted or filtered purely to public places, they drive past homes and if you happen to have no nets on those curtains and are walking around your own home naked...

Paris because I want to see her naked without nets

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Alert

@Sarah

OMG the Modaratrix has weighed into this arguement! I don't think that privacy is the issue. The camera takes pictures of publicly visible things. I have accepted that there are perverts in basements wanking over pictures of what I got up to last weekend on CCTV but I am concerned about privacy with respect to my web surfing habits, my personal data and what I get up to inside my own home. Privacy applies in places where privacy is expected and not in public places.

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Jobs Horns

YEY TO GOOGLE!!! [appoval]

I for one generally approve of the Google StreetView idea. I see no problem with public photos that arent forcefully entering private property (although do think that the idea above of only being 6 foot high is worthy of note). I can also see its use for helping people find their way to unknown places. Things look very different from the ground than on a map, and it could help some people no end.

Re:

"On a more serious note, those who think that this isn't important should bear in mind that allowing people to take and publish your image without first requesting consent could have serious implications, not least when it comes to the right to retain control over how (and where) your likeness is used."

-> Members of the public can be in photographs in public places (although Special (needs) Constables seem to need to learn this) without their express consent. And I for one am happy that is so. I wouldnt want such a nanny state that you cant do anything without it being rubber stamped and approved first. Besides, with a 'face-blurring system' in place they have partly covered their backs on that one.

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Happy

@ Simon Painter

"the camera on top of the car should be no more than six feet from ground level to ensure that it does not see any more than what the general public walking along the pavement can see"

Hmm. Should I shut my eyes next time I'm upstairs on a bus?

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UK privacy

Three problems.

1) There is only a right for you to take photos for personal use, not commercial.

2) There is one BIG problem they have. It is illegal to take photos of people near certain buildings. Places such as Drug Rehab, Hospitals or places of worship would all be a BIG no no, but I doute Google take these things in to account.

3) If I remember correctly there was a big legal spat between someone famous and a news paper a few years back about the paper taking pics of them going about there shopping. The paper lost.

Finally, on a separet note, I really hate Google saying "If you tell us we will take the photo down". Isn’t that a bit like a shop lifter saying "If you catch me I will give you the stuff back, so it’s all ok"?

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Black Helicopters

Can see this both ways, to be honest

and if I were photographed it wouldn't cause me too much stress, if it was in public. If I was in my garden, however, which is visible from the street, then I'd be more-than-somewhat perturbed. Likewise if photographs of any of my children were taken anywhere, Having said that, I'd just ask them to take them down.

This is all assuming it isn't for profit. If it were, then I believe that they have to get permission of the indviduals concerned and/or pay royalties. Still doesn't mean they can't do it, just creates a few more hoops to jump through.

All in all, I come down on the side of allowing them to go ahead; the freedom to take photographs, sketches, etc of anywhere without seeking permission is a freedom we have all taken for granted for so long it's hard to believe that we're on the verge of having it taken away.

Black helicopters because it would be so much more cool if Google used those for StreetView imagery than those Pope-mobile things

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Re: "I don't think that privacy is the issue"

Ah, but it *is* the issue. There is a fundamental difference between an individual taking pictures for personal use (whatever that might be), and a representative of a company taking pictures AND PUBLISHING THEM for commercial use.

The publication and the purpose of use is where privacy becomes a fundamental aspect of this issue.

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Anonymous Coward

Dear Mr Thomas why have you been ...

asleep for so frigging long ??. You state, quote the article;

"Richard Thomas, UK ICO, said: "European data protection law is increasingly seen as out of date, bureaucratic and excessively prescriptive. It is showing its age and is failing to meet new challenges to privacy, such as the transfer of personal details across international borders and the huge growth in personal information online.

"It is high time the law is reviewed and updated for the modern world." END QUOTE

So why on earth has it taken you and your office the decade or more that the

internet become increasingly popular to wake up to this fact ????????

Same applied to the incompetent Labour Govt. To be honest EVERYTHING is bullshit .All these laws they say they make for our protection do not ever protect us. All the laws they say are ONLY going to be used in extreme terrorist cases are used because a dog crapped on the pavement. Why the F do we put up with this?? Lets have a revolution and get rid of this Government .

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Jobs Horns

Good idea Google

I for one generally approve of the Google StreetView idea. I see no problem with public photos that arent forcefully entering private property (although do think that the idea above of only being 6 foot high is worthy of note). I can also see its use for helping people find their way to unknown places. Things look very different from the ground than on a map, and it could help some people no end.

Re:

"On a more serious note, those who think that this isn't important should bear in mind that allowing people to take and publish your image without first requesting consent could have serious implications, not least when it comes to the right to retain control over how (and where) your likeness is used."

-> Members of the public can be in photographs in public places (although Special (needs) Constables seem to need to learn this) without their express consent. And I for one am happy that is so. I wouldnt want such a nanny state that you cant do anything without it being rubber stamped and approved first. Besides, with a 'face-blurring system' in place they have partly covered their backs on that one.

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Coat

OMG

"I have accepted that there are perverts in basements wanking over pictures of what I got up to last weekend on CCTV"

Link please.

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Happy

@ Stephen

Well if you are standing in your own home naked or even humping your patio table and can be seen from the street then I can photograph you and report you for exposing yourself. It matters not if you are within your own property, the fact remains that you are in full view of someone standing on public property when you engage in your perverted table shagging behaviour.

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Stop

Am I missing something

Didn't the couple say that the drive to their house was marked "Private" and on their land? In that case, it was *not* a government owned street, the spyccar was not "just catching people in public doing whatever" - Google (actually, the driver) was breaking the law.

I think that is the point of this case, and if it is the truth - Google might as well write out that check now, unless they intend to throw the driver under the bus.

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Stop

@Screw google

And that's exactly why Google will remove such photos if you ask nicely.

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Happy

@ David

A good, if slightly contrary, arguement. People who live on a bus route would be wise to take extra precautions such as erecting a high hedge or simply either not sunbathing in the nude in their garden or humping their garden furniture. Those who do not live on bus routes have a reasonable expectation that a seven foot high hedge or fence will obscure them from view and allow them to shag their patio kit without fear of discovery.

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Flame

ARRGHH!!

People whining about new technologies and advancements in public facilities is beginning to get on my nerves. People want more and more things these days with a more 'life like/real world' touch (eg a map that can show you the actual street as you would see it!!) but dont want to think of themselves being in the map and just generally whining when someone tries to make these things happen.

I despair at modern society at times, I really do!

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Anonymous Coward

@Re: "I don't think that privacy is the issue"

hmmm

but what about all those crappy police stop action shows?

No one seems to complain much about the cctv vomit those pieces of dumbed down crud piss into our lives?

I think it would be polite if they blured faces and license plates, just out of curtesy - but most reporting photography doesn't get a persons permission before hand, so it's a rather daft notion to be honest.

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Coat

Re:OMG

To the CCTV or the basement?

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Prescribe v. Proscribe

I think people might be misreading a comment. To claim the laws are too "prescriptive" suggests that they try to handle privacy with a collection of very specific conditions, and should be amended to be more generally applicable (and therefore more useful as the underlying specifics evolve.)

To say that a category of laws should be less prescriptive does not mean that they should be "relaxed," but rather that they should convey their intent with minimal reference to the current technologies to which they are seen to apply.

Prescribe: to lay down a rule

Proscribe: to condemn or forbid as harmful

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Anonymous Coward

@ Am I missing something

Maybe... if the car was on private land then there is a problem. If the car was photographing stuff from the street then there is no problem.

No amount of 'private' signs will make a difference if the property is visible from the street.

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Thumb Up

How do you define consent to have your image taken?

I once got caught shagging by the CCTV cameras in the cashpoint lobby of my local HSBC. Apparently as I was on their property I couldn't do anything about it. They wouldn't even give me a copy of the tape to show my mates.....bastards.

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AC

honestly ...

seriously, who *actually* gives a guff about google taking a picture of them in the street?

a video I could find it in me to object to, but a quick snap in the street ? big whoop.

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Check out the site

No problem with Google photographing everything. Its not an invasion of privacy so long as all private scenes are blurred out. The request to be opted in instead of contacting them to opt-out.

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Alert

why pick on google?

On my walk to work I dread to think how many CCTV cameras I get caught on. I can even go to the TFL website and see some of these images on their traffic pages. What is the difference between Google and the government when it comes to taking photos of me in public? I have not given permission to either to take these photos.

If you are going to stop Google thats fine but take down all the CCTV in London while you're at it. I'm sure there are plenty of CCTV cameras that are pointing at private property.

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Anonymous Coward

Can't they take pictures when nobody's there?

I don't understand why Google have to take their pictures in the middle of the day when people are out and about. They should run their photo safari in the early morning around sunrise.

From a photography perspective dawn and dusk are the times of day where the light conditions are best for taking pictures anyway. And from a practical perspective there are generally very few people on the street at -say- 4:30 am. After all, they want pictures of the street view, in other words, the fewer people and the fewer cars are around the better for the purpose.

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Dead Vulture

So who is worried?

No one I have spoken to for sure.

Maybe one or two people who seem to think they need to stand on a soap box, but come on who really cares? It's not like there is a DTG on the photo that tells your boss that when you were off sick you were actually banging his missus now is there?

Why can't people get a grip on reality. As for the "storm" do you mean those two people who are so fat and ugly they are embarrassed to be seen? If so - Join a gym you eejuts!!

I think it is pretty damn cool to be able to walk down my street and show people "Thats where I live", "thats my local pub", "Thats whereI lost my virginity", "Thats where obama is hiding"

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About privacy? Not really.

@ Kyle:

>>>Ah, but it *is* the issue. There is a fundamental difference between an individual taking pictures for personal use (whatever that might be), and a representative of a company taking pictures AND PUBLISHING THEM for commercial use.

>>>

>>>The publication and the purpose of use is where privacy becomes a fundamental aspect of this issue.

If the issue is in the commercial use of the photos, then it cannot be a privacy issue. Example: I take pictures and post them on my personal website and label them public domain. Your "privacy" is just as "violated" but I have not used the photos for commercial purposes. No, you're not after privacy, you're after a cut of the profits. Those are two wholly separate issues.

@ AC:

>>>Didn't the couple say that the drive to their house was marked "Private" and on their land? In that case, it was *not* a government owned street, the spyccar was not "just catching people in public doing whatever" - Google (actually, the driver) was breaking the law.

Now, I don't know UK law, but in US law, it doesn't matter if you're in your backyard and that your backyard is private property. As long as I am on public property, I can point my camera any direction I choose and snap away.

@ Stephen:

>>>The thing is, these cameras aren't restricted or filtered purely to public places, they drive past homes and if you happen to have no nets on those curtains and are walking around your own home naked...

Nothing stops me from standing on the street watching you, and it's completely legal. If you're doing something where someone on public property could see you, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Regarding height of hedges, in the US, it's not uncommon for paparazzi to climb a tree near a house to take pictures over the hedge. This is completely legal. Trashy and lacking class, but legal.

People have gone over the hedge (badum!) with privacy. Yes, you are entitled to privacy, but not everywhere you think you are. Like when you have sex in a hotel room in Vegas. Guess what - you're on video. The only place they don't have cameras is in the bathrooms. You're at the mall in a tight skirt - there is nothing illegal about someone affixing a camera to their shoe and recording video up your skirt. The admittedly strange law in the US is that the video can't contain the subjects voice, or something equally odd. The point is, when you're in public, or when you are visible some public spaces (or from someone else's private property) you are not entitled to privacy. So you want to shag your patio furniture and think your 7 foot hedge is enough to give you a reasonable expectation of privacy from people on the street. What about people in the multi-level across the street?? What about people in nearby low flying aircraft? What about cameras mounted on big tripods on top of cars?

Don't be stupid.

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Paris Hilton

Ummm

So people in the country with the most number of surveillance cameras per citizen in the world that aren't covered by the Data Protection Act (if they're not targeted at a specific individual) are complaining about a car driving around taking pictures?

They think that's a breach of privacy, whilst the local council making sure you bag it after your dog does it isn't?

I'm Irish, but not even I'd be able to use *this* logic!

Paris, cos I doubt she'd understand it any better than I

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Joke

NWSF

"As long as the photos are being taken from public property (i.e. government controlled street), and are not being taken of restricted subjects (i.e. nuclear weapon storage facilities) then the whiners don't have a leg to stand on. You're in public. You can be photographed. End of discussion."

Ah well, how do they know that my underpants don't contain nuclear weapon storage facilities?

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