Google Street View Invades Cat's Privacy

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It's only been out for a day, yet Google's new Street View feature is already causing havoc, invading the privacy of Mary Kalin-Casey, whose cat Monty is shown in the above photo outside her home. Personally, I can barely make out a cat in that photo. What do you guys think? Is this an invasion of privacy—should Google take the image down?


Google Photos Stir Debate Over Privacy [NYT]



This is also referenced and discussed (+/- intelligence) at /. ([]).

Here are my thoughts, and remember, IANAL and I care greatly about my (and your) privacy.

Fact: You have a REASONABLE expectation of privacy.

Your privacy ends where you can be legally seen, IE: your window with open blinds, viewed from the street or sidewalk.

FACT: Google has an easy to use method for requesting that offending pictures be removed.

FACT: Google has even gone out of its way to NOT post certain pictures, IE: women's abuse centers. They have even pointed out that they WANT you to request your photo be removed should you be an abuse victim and/or hiding.

Fact: Google has removed many pictures already.

My opinion (such as it's worth):

These single images, taken from the street, are less invasive than what would be seen by somebody walking down the sidewalk and looking around. They are not a documentation of your life, even if they happen to catch you doing something you perhaps shouldn't be doing or wouldn't want your mother to know about. Hey, if you're in public (like the guy pictured coming out of a strip club), you're fair game for a picture. Google is being nice and letting you ask for it to be removed if you see it and decide you're not so proud of it. If you're one of those caught in a drug deal and don't want it posted, just ask Google to remove it. With luck, the cops won't see it first. Besides, what are the odds of a cop from your town seeing that picture and recognizing you well enough to know who and where you are so s/he can bust you? Somewhere between slim and none, and slim left town!

On another note, these images taken by the Google van are less invasive than standard poporatzi images can be, despite American case law indicating that, for a 35mm camera, a max 55mm lens can be used as it approximates the visual acuity of the human eye. The poporatzi actively pursue their targeted people, with big, hi-res cameras with huge telephoto lenses. And they make a living doing so. Now you want to complain about Google taking a bunch of snapshots? Please!

Furthermore, along the lines of documenting someone's life, what Google is inadvertently doing is taking a snapshot of Americana. The future anthropologists will LOVE this treasure trove of images! Think about it. A huge collection of single, one-off pictures all across the urban landscape. People picking their noses, fixing their cars, coming out of a house (which happens to have a cat in the window), etc. Eventually, most urban areas and important rural areas will have this. This could actually be one of the most important documents of American culture and history. You don't want to be a part of this? Ask Google to remove your picture and you will cease to be a part of history. Fine by me.

Personally, the only reason this is even an issue is that it's done by Google, a big corporate entity. People certainly don't seem to raise much of a stink when the government puts in red-light cameras and speed cameras, reads your emails, or checks your purse when you enter the courthouse to sue Google over these silly, and very useful, pictures.