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back to article Ban drones taking snaps of homes, rages Google boss... That's HIS job, right?

Google supremo Eric Schmidt has demanded tough rules on civilians flying surveillance drones, branding the tech a threat to privacy. The executive chairman of the internet advertising giant that snaps photos of millions of front doors worldwide is upset that cheap camera-toting aircraft can be used by anyone from terrorists to …

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Is this the same Eric Schmidt

who said: "if you don’t have anything to hide, you have nothing to fear".

Shurely shome mishtake?

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JDX
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Re: Is this the same Eric Schmidt

That's what I was going to post... however I agree with his comments in this case even though I think drones are incredibly awesome and I really want one. They are such an open opportunity for perving and so on - I shouldn't have to close my curtains if my window is not overlooked.

I fear they may be banned before they properly take off (!) as a toy.

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Devil

Re: Is this the same Eric Schmidt

His just annoyed that people who are fed up of GoogleCars are deliberatly spying on him in his own back garden.

**Moves Drone with Camera nearer a Tree**

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Flame

Re: Is this the same Eric Schmidt

Schmidt / Google needs a good old Thatcher-style hand-bagging. Obama should borrow Michelle's heaviest "purse" and let rip.

Next in line - London Banks, the British Leyland of the 21st Century. The should be hand-bagged with all available speed.

Sorry about the off-topic rant. But seriously, man.

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utter bollocks

why don't they ban something that's actually dangerous instead of toys you can buy in toysrus in preparation of a crime(?) that hasn't happened yet?

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Re: Is this the same Eric Schmidt

>who said: "if you don’t have anything to hide, you have nothing to fear".

Just another case of the person saying this always be on the positive side of information asymmetry. When the playing field gets evened out some is when the whining really begins.

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I have a very easy solution..

Just put a "Google Streetview" sticker on it before you let it hover over his house. Easy.

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Black Helicopters

@Chris

And who thought it would be neat to provide us with (pretty high res.) aerial / satellite photo's which could almost identify your wife or girlfriend lying on a beach bench in your own backyard in her bikini ?

Has everyone already forgotten about Google Earth and how much trouble many individuals had to go through before Google finally allowed the public to apply for blurring of pictures on their Google Earth environment ?

What I see here is the Pot calling the Kettle black, and also a shameless display of sheer arrogance.

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Childcatcher

Re: Is this the same Eric Schmidt

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Sound familiar?

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Re: He is still correct @Eadon

Except that this particular warrior is busy campaigning against war on one hand whilst still slaughtering innocents with the other...

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WTF?

Re: He is still correct

To quote Prince Ludwig The Indestructible "You know, you talk too much, Eadon. I think it’s a case of werbal

diarrhoea that you are having."

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verbal diarrhoea

It's called "Logorrhea".

Carry on

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Anonymous Coward

@ Eadon, Re: He is still correct

champion for privacy? More like strangling potential competition to his future business. Suppose they, one day, this wonderful do-no-evil Google decides to provide some overhead, low-flying pics (as he's sitting comfy with the occupants of a certain white painted house, and as outsourcing frenzy is anything but dead), and then, one of their pesky competitors, MS (if they're still around), or others, decide to use crowd-sourcing to come up with their alternative... sorry folks, not allowed.

"all the drones belong to us", cause you know, you can't control individual folks who might decide to rain bombs on your own courtyard, while you can control the government, who might decide to do likewise, can't you? Sure thing you can! If you're still around after they drop their load...

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JDX
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Re: He is still correct @Eadon

There is a difference taking static photographs on a car traversing public roads anyone could see, and flying a drone over my garden to look through my windows.

Does anyone know the legal ownership of the air above your land? If a person can hover 2" above my lawn are they 'in' my property? 2 feet? 20 feet?

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Boffin

Re: He is still correct @Eadon

@JDX:

But one of the biggest complaints regarding Street View is that the camera is about 9 feet up, and therefore able to see over the top of normal sized fences and hedges - just like a flying drone.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

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Re: He is still correct @Eadon

The common law distinguishes between two different types of airspace. The lower and Upper stratum.

The lower stratum is concerned with the portion immediately above the land and interference with this air space would effect the landowner’s reasonable enjoyment of the land and the structures upon it.

[...]

S. 76 Civil Aviation Act 1982 states that ‘the lower stratum is unlikely to extend beyond an altitude of much more than 500 or 1,000 feet above roof level, this being roughly the minimum permissible distance for normal overflying by any aircraft’ (Rules of the Air Regulations 2007, Sch 1, s. 3(5)).

[...]

http://www.inbrief.co.uk/land-law/land-ownership.htm

Not sure how reliable that is, but it would seem to imply that anything below 1,000 feet would be questionable where the law is concerned (not being a lawyer myself).

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Re: He is still correct @Eadon

Damnit - I meant @JDX.

Please whoever is reading this on the register's end: allow non-badge members to correct titles and typos.

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JDX
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@The First Dave

"one of the biggest complaints regarding Street View is that the camera is about 9 feet up, and therefore able to see over the top of normal sized fences and hedges - just like a flying drone."

Yes but that's no different from anyone driving a lorry or sitting on the top deck of a bus. If your garden/window is viewable from the road, but only in those situations, you should expect people can sometimes see in.

If you have a secluded back garden or your house is not overlooked, you do not expect any possibility of anyone looking in.

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JDX
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@Vimes

Thanks. Simply banning drones from flying over peoples' houses would be fine in my view... if you live in a city you'd have to take it elsewhere to fly, in the country or a village you could fly it from your garden out across the fields.

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Re: He is still correct @Eadon

@JDX

I believe it's 500' above rooftop in the UK (Or to a height that is reasonable for your enjoyment of your land, apparently, but 500' seems to be the height most quoted).

This is from a rather brief look on the internet. (http://www.inbrief.co.uk/land-law/land-ownership.htm being one source)

You also have a reasonable right to privacy within the bounds of your own home, so if you have a 6' fence, someone flying a drone (or sticking a camera on an 8' pole) so as to take pictures of your garden (or through your windows) would be a breach of your rights and you can take them to court.

If someone can see into your garden without a camera on a stick, or a drone, you can still complain, but it's less likely you'll succeed in court.

However, I am not a lawyer: You'd be best asking one if you can find one down the pub who won't charge you a fortune for the answer :p

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Re: He is still correct

He is not campaigning for privacy he is campaigning for another them vs us rule.

It would be like Esso or BP complaining about cow farts.

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Re: @Vimes

@JDX

There are perfectly good reasons for using a drone around a home. Examining guttering or roofing, for example: Much safer than going up a ladder. So banning drones from flying over or around houses? No. Banning them from flying over property without the owner's permission? Well, that's already covered, although it could do with clarification.

Illegitimate uses of camera drone is covered by law also. It's no different than sticking a camera on a stick so you can see over a fence. Or climbing a tree to peer into your neighbors garden or home. Does mean the paparazzi will love them, though, considering what they get away with...

Another issue might be: What happens if a drone enters your garden and gets damaged? Caught in a net or hit by a ball? Can you legitimately bring down an intruding drone if it enters your land? Possibly, but then the owner would have to explain what it was doing in your garden in the first place...

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Re: He is still correct @Eadon

>But one of the biggest complaints regarding Street View is that the camera is about 9 feet up, and therefore able to see over the top of normal sized fences and hedges - just like a flying drone.

Exactly the issue I had. Mr Google in his car drove down the side alleyway next to my house (not a public highway) and took lovely pictures of the back of my house, garage and garden, showing loads more detail than could be seen by just walking down the side of the house. They then incorrectly put them on the streetview map, so as you travelled down the public road outside my house, you magically jumped to the side alley and saw the images of the back of my house!

(In fairness they did remove them all once I reported them as a privacy issue).

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JDX
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Re: @Vimes

"There are perfectly good reasons for using a drone around a home"

I never claimed otherwise. I suggested banning them flying over others' land would be a problem as would using them to spy into others gardens from above your land.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: He is still correct -no he isn't

A flying camera is not a weapon.

Apart from that, do you really think this would deter terrorist (you know, the type that are happy to die for the cause) to use remote controlled devices?

Neither will it prevent the 'authorities' using proper military grade survellience drones on you.

So I think limiting these is ridiculous. That said like anything they should be operated with care... I'm sure existing laws exist to prevent dangerous or pervy applications.

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Devil

Re: @JDX

Yes but that's no different from anyone driving a lorry or sitting on the top deck of a bus.

That's the same argument that has been used to defend Google's WiFi slurping: "anyone can do it." Could be, but not on the scale that Google does. By far. And there's the correlated data that Google tacks onto their pics and their collected SSIDs. Do you expect someone taking a snap from the top of a bus to put the exact address in the comments when uploading the pic to Flickr? And even with GPS tagging, you first have to go from your target addres to GPS data, then find any pics that match those tags and see if they're what you're after. Google hands it to you on a plate.

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Re: He is still correct @Eadon

@vimes, sounds like I can treat anything flying in the lower stratum over my property as a free clay pidgeon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: correct titles and typos

Delete the incorrect post, then post the corrected version. Simples.

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Pint

Re: He is still correct @Eadon

@Eadon. Perhaps your posts are getting so many down-votes because of you generally come across as a (rather unreasonable) anti-MS zealot, but for once I think you're right that we should not just dismiss Schmidt just because he is a big hypocrite. If we do, we fall into the trap of "Tu quoque" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque).

By saying this I'm not necessarily agreeing with Mr. Schmidt's arguments (that requires a bit more thought on my part to come to my own conclusion), I am simply saying that we shouldn't dismiss his point of view out of hand.

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He's just upset that ...

... having spent so much money developing self-driving cars with a view to automating the street cam fleet, he's just realised that a competitor will be able to do it more easily, quickly, and cheaply with drones.

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JDX
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Re: He's just upset that ...

His cars can't go into your back garden.

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Re: He's just upset that ...

"His cars can't go into your back garden."

Both Google and Bing have a photo of my garden already.

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Re: He's just upset that ... @JDX

They don't need to. The cameras are already high enough to see over the fences...

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JDX
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Re: He's just upset that ... @JDX

Your camera ha to be pretty bloody high to see into my back garden over the roof of my house. Google sees nothing a lorry driver doesn't.

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Holmes

I can, therefore I should

Google's approach has tended to be: "We can, so we should. We'll pick up the pieces later."

Schmidt is assuming that everyone else will do the same - in other words, because we can buzz a neighbour's BBQ then we will.

Truth is, must of us think before acting and don't believe we should just because we can.

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JDX
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Re: I can, therefore I should

You have a very naive view of humanity. You don't think a guy who gets a drone for 'honourable' (nerdy) purposes who realises a hot woman sunbathes naked in her private garden or showers with the curtain open in her un-overlooked bathroom, would abuse that? It's very easy to say people won't BUY drones to perve, and I agree (mostly). But that doesn't mean they won't use them for that...

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Re: I can, therefore I should

Nothing stopping them nailing a video camera to a long stick and viewing that way through a window.

I think it would be cool to have one. Could inspect my roof/guttering as well as shooting some nice flypast views (away from houses).

Though, because there will always be one pervert out there, its going to restrict the rest of us normal people.

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Re: I can, therefore I should

@jdx: with your fit woman example where do you draw the line? If I could be upstairs in my house ogling her or hovering a drone above my property is that still allowed as long as I'm not taking photos or video? Is it only wrong if her property isn't naturally overlooked? Where's the line?

As regards other comments about google cars only taking images of what is publicly viewable I believe that has been held to not be true in several jurisdictions due to the pole extending from the roof of the vehicle giving it greater than normal viewing height.

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Re: I can, therefore I should

@ Wize ...

Shhh. If you're not careful they'll ban sticks.

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Re: I can, therefore I should

You *can* do more things like that with the camera on your mobe already.

Based on the logic of your post, should we assume you *do* do such things?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can, therefore I should

It is indeed a handy way to get a stills shot from a better vantage point... over a tall wall... above some other obstruction.. something in distance isn't quite visible but a few more feet of elevation will help.. a better view for all sorts of reasons...

Put camera on tripod, extend to max length.

Keep tripod legs together, and use as a long 'stick'.

Use wide angle. Press 5 or 10 second timer... hoist camera up high, it takes shot.

Bonus points for having a tilt-n-twist screen you can angle downwards so you can roughly check the framing.

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JDX
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@Mark 65

"@jdx: with your fit woman example where do you draw the line? If I could be upstairs in my house ogling her or hovering a drone above my property is that still allowed"

If you could see her from your house, she can expect to be observed and should shut her curtains.

Hovering a drone high above your own land... well you would not be allowed to build a high viewing platform on your garden which allows you to overlook neighbours, as far as I understand it, so I'd say this falls into that category.

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Re: I can, therefore I should

@ Pete H

Also, don't use rectangular sticks with rounded corners. The shit will really hit the fan then.

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Anonymous Coward

The ironing is delicious

I wonder if he was showing the Norks how to use google maps to pick suitable targets when he was over there!

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So few comments?

Surely this kind of story is a gold mine for commentards?

I think this is a case of glass houses and throwing stones. Im betting hes got a reporter doing exactly this and he doesn't like it.

People do not get rich like him by playing by the same rules as the little people. After a while, the truly powerful people really do live in ivory towers and the really don't see the hypocrisy in their statements.

Maybe if the reporter used paint to blur out the faces on the picture? After all, he kindly did the same to the picture of my mother falling out of her car outside her house, which was nice, she loved that being shown to millions.

Or maybe the people taking snaps of his back garden could publish them all online and then give him an opt-out per image ? Seems fair tbh

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Re: So few comments?

I think this is a case of glass houses and throwing stones. Im betting hes got a reporter doing exactly this and he doesn't like it.

Probably that. But aside from the downright offensiveness of Schmidt being the one to say this, he is correct in this case. I'll just be keeping a very close eye on whether his actions match his rhetoric.

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Re: So few comments?

No, he's utterly wrong.

Taking photos that deliberately invade the privacy of another is already illegal in most jurisdictions.

For example, one could stand on a hill with a really long lens to take pictures of somebody topless sunbathing in a private area - and it would be against the law.

It would break exactly the same law to use any other technology to get that same photo.

- Oddly, you'd get caught more easily if you used a drone - they are noisier and have less loiter time than a bloke with a monopod and 1m lens.

Banning drone photography would be fundamentally stupid - it's the same as banning cameras because you might hold one up over a fence.

It is the photo itself which could invade one's privacy, not the means used to take it.

Apart from the "fun police" aspect, there are many business opportunities opened up by using them - the most obvious utilitarian example being safe roofing and gutter inspections.

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