back to article Google Maps boss to Germans: 'We don't want to invade you'

The man behind Google Street View assured Germany the firm didn't want to invade as it sought to allay the country's privacy concerns today. While Google has been driving its Street View cars around Germany for a couple of years, the service has yet to launch in the country, due to a particularly touchy Teutonic attitude to …

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Google's data collection in Berlin

http://vimeo.com/9455140

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Opt Out

Basically long story short this is auto opt-in for the entire world, and you are in fact responsible for the opt-out.

This is legal or 'not evil' how?

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Unhappy

I don't know how angry I should be...

He may or may not be right about 'most countries' and 'Street View' but a substantial minority, and possibly a majority, of the population - or proles? - are concerned. If the population, rather than an un-representative clique were in a classroom with the Google then some productive mind straightening could take place.

But, hey, I guess if we proles are street-viewed doing something we shouldn't or are embarrassed about then Google have done the community a service by recording and exposing us? We wont do that again in a hurry. When did technology change from being the servant to the master? Or have I totally missed the point of the world wide web and modern technology and I'm using the wrong 'model'?

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Flame

What exactly are you angry about?

I'm at least as concerned about Google's "oversight" of my day to day use of the web as you'd expect an average Reg reader to be, but for the life of me, I can't come up with a single reason to be concerned about StreetView.

And funnily enough, none of the "proles" that are getting their knickers in a twist over StreetView have ever been able to explain just how StreetView represents a threat to them either - they just don't like it, mainly because they've been told by "their betters" that it's creepy.

I notice that you haven't bothered to explain what your objection to StreetView is either. Maybe you're waiting for the person that's supposed to tell you how angry you should be to also tell you what it is you're angry about?

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Anonymous Coward

@ Al Jones: So you're not a closeted gay man caught on camera

coming out of a gentlemens' sauna, thereby being outed without his say-so. Or an individual spotted leaving jail having successfully sold an excuse of going on a world tour to explain a two-year absence from circulation. Or someone photographed leaving an interview for a job they didn't get, but never told their current employer about. Or someone found by a loved one to be seen enjoying a sneaky cigarette when they'd sworn they'd given up. Or a woman now living in a completely different part of the country whose abusive ex-partner tracks her down. Or someone seen leaving their lover's apartment. Or someone who is seen outside the pub, drink in hand, on an evening when they'd told their spouse the trains were delayed.

Not all of the secrets that people keep and the lies that they tell have an evil intent, and it's not Google's place to judge which of them are, or what evil is, much less is it Google's place to deny people the opportunity to decide what they want the world to know about them.

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FAIL

In public = In the public domain

If you don't want to be seen doing it, don't do it where you can be seen. Plain and simple.

* Should we ban turning TV cameras on the crowd at all sporting fixtures? Abusive ex's have tracked their victims this way. As have employers catching out employees chucking sickies. Would not be at all surprised to learn that Witness Protection has been similarly breached. (Surprised you missed that "nightmare scenario")

* What about public access to court records? After all somone might accidentally disover the neighbour who says he went Down Under for a bit (and arrives back pasty as ever) was actually holidaying in Shadwell.

* Gay, and caught out? There are legal avenues that can be persued if used as a reason to discriminate. And if married for 'cover' then I would certainly dispute your "no evil intent" characterisation.

* Married and busted: ditto.

For ever single one of your scenarios there is always the risk of a common acquaintance saying: "I saw X doing Y" The ONLY difference between being caught out on Streetview and more traditional "Oh sh*t, busted" moments is that no-one consciously made a decision to drop another in the poo.

Remember the elevator sex tapes that were doing the rounds a few years back? Realistically the only issue there is whether or not the employees who made them had a right to disribute material that bellonged to their employer and/or the building owner. The signage was there to warn the participants, and odds are that in a good many of the cases, their (drunken?) thinking was along the lines of "Let's put on a show."

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Your examples..

are mostly, but not exclusively, people being dishonest. So, you were caught telling a lie to your partner. Are you also going to ban the press from filming in the street just in case some nicotine addict gets caught out or some cheating spouse gets seen arm in arm with their lover? Are you really more likely to be spotted by Google doing these things than a friend of your spouse? I mean hell, the camera is fairly obvious perched on top of a car.

So I'd suggest the next time you are popping out of the sauna with your bosses competitor you quickly scan around for enormous car top mounted cameras, then a little more closely for members of the press reporting on incidents in the area (who will probably not automatically blur your face) and then have one last look around for anyone that knows you that might happen to be in the area and report back to your boss about your sexual activities with the opposition.

What I am saying is that there are much more likely ways to be caught than by Google. Don't be so boring.

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Anonymous Coward

@ AC 23:26 valid arguments but

No more valid than taking any of your examples and substituting "someone who knows you just happening to walk past and see you" for "Google"

And to forestall the argument that such a person would have a choice as to whether or not they tell everyone they saw you, note I said "someone who knows you" not "a friend".

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Anonymous Coward

Still no defence whatsoever..

.. for the fact that Streetview offers to zoom in on house windows. Sorry, but that is IMHO unacceptable. It serves no purpose than to feed voyeurism and handy burglary planning by out of town groups.

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At what level of clarity?

Just had a quick look at streetview. Given that streetview images are taken during the day almost nothing is distinguishable through the vast majority of windows due to reflection. Closed curtains/blinds take care of much of the rest.

And my argument still applies. If you're putting on a show for local pedestrians, you might as well put it on for the whole world. If it's visible from a public place then it's not private, it's just a question of whether or not someone's looking at the time.

For most of history (and before) privacy has been something that had to be actively sought. And Mrs Grundy in all her curtain twitching incarnations has actively sought to breach it. It has only been for a few brief decades that city dwellers possessed the illusion of absolute privacy through the anonymity of the crowd and being less interesting than someone else. The intrusion of Google's streetview is nothing in comparison to the nosey old baggage living next door.

As for planning a crime, be it burglary or a terrorist attack, all it does is makes things a little easier, it offers nothing that can not be obtained better with a personal eyeballing and a $200 camera.

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Anonymous Coward

from the Horse's mouth

"the company didn't realise it would have to be so sensitive about the privacy implications of Street View"

says it all, they just didn't think, didn't they.

Yankee idiots!

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DJV
FAIL

Think? They never do...

...hence the almighty cock-up that was the launch and subsequent hasty privacy rewrites of Buzz...

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Anonymous Coward

Still waiting

... for the Eric Schmidt home toilet cam. I don't understand why he's being so sensitive about not making it public.

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FAIL

What a brilliant set of soundbytes

not a single one of them in any way sensitive or reassuring

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Give us your address...

Of the people I know and have looked up on street view, I'd say it was right about three times in ten. Usually it is the house next door, but not much help if they blank the wrong one. And in one case, it got it spectacularly (as in in a different town) wrong.

What will replace the blocked house? Black smudges? Whoa, way to say to the world "look, I think I have something to hide!"...

I can't FAIL this because I quite like StreetView for exploring far off places, but I can't help but think the solution is potentially worse than the problem.

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Irreversible change

Well, the threat from streetview is real. Streetview was used by the terror plotters for Mumbai terrorism in Nov 2008. Once the streetview is up, the threat is irreversible.

Does streetview offer more practical value than a GPS? Isn't it just for entertainment factor and to boost tech ego of Google?

Glad to see at least one government is stepping up to protect its citizens' privacy.

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Google to Germany: Stop complaining. You lost the war.

"No, we didn't lose," says Germany.

The virtual country of Google ("we're a country" ... huh?) should note that the real country of Germany, while it has capitulated to the dominance of Google, doesn't want Google's camera-armed soldiers on its streets. After all, Germany must have lots to hide, right?

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Flame

'Jones then assured them that "Google is not an invader of countries. We're a country." ' !

An inflated ego demonstrating the complete lack of cross cultural awareness!

Throw them out!

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Boffin

Don't read this post!

This post is private, you do not have my permission to read it.

The fact that it's in a public forum and visible to anyone who cares to look here is irrelevant.

In the same way you're not allowed to look at my house, neither is Google because you and they will be invading my privacy.

Oh, and I think that that the Police should be allowed to arrest anyone who takes a photograph of my house without my permission or a picture of me walking down the street.

Of course if they should arrest me for taking a photograph of a public landmark because they think I might be a terrorist, well, that's ok too.

Isn't it...???

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not quite the same though is it

It is called extremes. Whilst my house is in public view, it isnt being gawped over by potentially hundres of thousands of people. Got a nice car in the drive? That might get noticed by someone wanting that car.

Got a TV in the window that can be seen? Maybe the local thugs want to see the layout of your windows.

Sure someone could go along and take a piccy if so interested but with google doing the job for you then why not use that instead?

Cant say I want my house on street view.

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Stop

So basically what you're saying is...

Streetview is putting crims who specialise in casing joints out of business?

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Boffin

@Danny14

If you have a nice car in the drive or a TV that can be seen or whatever, I suggest you contact your local Crime Prevention Officer who will tell you some simple measures which will help prevent you becoming a victim of crime instead of sticking up a sign saying "I've got expensive stuff, rob me!"

It makes no odds whether the crooks walk past and eyeball your place or use Street View if it can be seen and they're more likely to physically walk past because for the Street View images become more out of date with every day that passes.

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Stop

Overreaction.

So long as Google is using *public* access roads to take the pictures, no *privacy* complaints can be made - if it could be seen by someone passing by, then Google did nothing wrong in that sense.

Where things get a little more confused is *what* google is doing with this data - if it is using it for *any* commercial purposes (i.e., someone is making money out of it) then there is a possibility that they may need to get a release from everyone involved. IANAL, and I'm pretty certain those laws vary from country to country.

Having said that, cases where Google has "accidentally" driven up private roads, or somehow managed to photograph people's backyards over 2m+ fences *are* a breach of privacy.

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Google Hubris

"Google is not an invader of countries. We're a country."

Eh?

What's up next? Google to get a seat in the UN? Google to want some missiles so that you can declare war on (insert real country name here)? And what about elections and transparency in beautiful Google country? Last time I checked, three guys held all the voting power.

What I am really concerned about is that this statement did not come from a t-shirt wearing hippie fresh from university doing some fun coding in MV, but from an apparently important senior guy, chief technology advocate, Michael Jones. If THIS (and Eric "Privacy" Schmidt) is the best they can do to handle such tricky issues like privacy, they are doomed anyway. Can't they afford media trainings any more?

But hey, fortunately real countries can change real laws and thus change their real relationship to "Google" pretty fast. Time to talk to our MPs now.

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Big Brother

Privacy?

So, which is worse - Google possibly randomly taking your photo once every couple of years (and blurring your face); or some official spook watching you on CCTV every time you walk down the street? Somehow I can't get worked up about Google....

(Btw, if you're nervous about privacy, just 'Google' yourself - almost everything you've ever posted on the 'Net will be there. And no that's not a Google conspiracy, any decent search engine can't help doing the same 8-)

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StreetView indicates development of nations

Like reviewing how early in a country's history it experiences civil war, one day we will look back at the reaction to StreetView around the world. The more go-ahead nations will object less. It seems like a national 'growing pain', that all countries seem destined to go through.

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Anonymous Coward

Up to the Germans, really.

If the Germans don't want Google Street View then they have every right to refuse it. The Germans can exercise their right to self-determination, not least the fact Google isn't a German company (or a "country" either). Given the ubiquity of Google and the ease of access to Street View I think there is a genuine issue with privacy.

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Badgers

Things to point out

Google Streetview is repeatable; someone you know happening to see you becomes word of mouth but if it's on Streetview it can be called up time and again.

Streetview can allow the cross-referencing of address with the image being displayed whereas a chance appearance in a photograph may be tricky to pinpoint in an area the observer is unfamiliar with.

Streetview is available to the public, so not only can the anonymous spooks or powers that be see it, but everyone else can as well, thus opening a far wider window of viewers.

Now the question is do you trust Google to decide what is or is not appropriate to photograph or what is or is not an unethical activity? Does someone in the closet or secretly having a smoke or whatever have the right to choose to not be recorded by this system in light of these three differences over traditional media? If they have that right then consequently it should not be used as one cannot successfully selectively censor such a large system.

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Anonymous Coward

Some of the worries brought forward in Germany include ...

... allowing wrong-doers to scout for possible targets (houses to burgle, banks to hold up, terrorist targets to strike) from the comfort and apparent safety of their own computer;

... scanning whole neigbourhoods automatically for purposes like credit-rating (sounds far-fetched, given the technological challenges? maybe today, but what would you have said about an idea like "Recognizr", say, five years ago?)

... insufficient "blur" of people - a lot of people still pretty much identifiable (this one could be tackled technology wise, cf. "ghost removal" already available for HDR tools)

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Pirate

possible privacy issues around Street View

"Jones insisted that most other countries were "not worried" about possible privacy issues around Street View,"

Really? I thought there was quite a kerfluffle about Privacy vs. StreetView when it first came out. I guess the chocolate-heads at Mountain View must have had their heads in the sand back then. Or perhaps it's just the cocky attitude of "do whatever we want until someone tells us we can't" that seems to be the norm for Google.

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