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Cheers - AE

Friday, 3 April 2009

Google Street View again.

I've blogged this before but I suppose it was only a matter of time before somebody really got their cock in a knot about Street View.
Residents of an affluent village formed a human chain to prevent Google from taking pictures of their homes amid fears the images could be used by burglars.
The spontaneous protest erupted after a van filming digital footage for the internet giant's controversial Street View service was spotted entering Broughton in Buckinghamshire.
Well done. Now every thieving bastard who can read a newspaper will know that the residents of Broughton in Buckinghamshire must have some nice stuff to nick or they wouldn't be worried about the Googlemobile. Staying discreet and avoiding drawing attention to yourselves... epic fail.
Paul Jacobs, 43, who spotted the van in Broughton on Wednesday and rallied his neighbours to take to the street, said he was furious that his home was being photographed without permission.
I'm going to make a reasonable assumption here, and that is that Paul Jacobs home is on a public road or can be seen from one. If so then tough shit. Who the fuck is he to say what can or can't be photographed from public places? If he doesn't like it he should move to a private road out of sight from public places, or alternatively he should dig a hole and put his house in it. But as things stand who the fuck is he to say his house can't be photographed? It's the fucking exterior, the part that anyone and everyone can see when they walk or drive past the fucking place. Does Paul Jacobs expect people to be blindfolded when they pass his property? Does he ask the postman to close his eyes when he delivers the mail or does he hypnotize the poor sod so he forgets what it looks like? Here's how it is: if I can legally walk past and look at it then I can legally recall the image in my mind, and if I can do that then I could, if I was at all artistic, produce a likeness on paper or canvas and this too would be legal. So if I can record the image in my head and reproduce it later what's the big deal if I record it on celluloid or a memory card? As far as I know it isn't a big deal and anyone can photograph anything in plain sight from public areas*. And if I can do it why not Google? I'm fairly indifferent about the company but I repeat: who the fuck is Paul Jacob to grant permission to Google or me or anyone else to go down his road with a camera taking lots of pictures?
"I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime," he said.
No, you tit. He's not facilitating crime because any burglar can walk down the road with his eyes open and achieve the same fucking thing. And he's not invading your privacy because anybody, including but not limited to burglars, can also walk down the road with their eyes open and achieve the same fucking thing. Google are not poking cameras through your letter box or garden hedge, and you don't own the road immediately outside your house.
"We've already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks. If our houses are plastered all over Google it's an invitation for more criminals to strike."
As pointed out above, your house being plastered all over Google (which, as someone whose home has been on Street View for months, I can tell you is a colossal exaggeration) is nothing like as big an invitation to criminals as gobbing off to every fucking newspaper in Christendom. Pinning your hopes on the Telegraph not appealing to burglars isn't going to help because it's in The Times, The Grauniad, The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Wail, The Express, you fucking name it. Anyone who buys a paper, and probably lots who don't but talk to someone who does, now knows that Broughton in Buckinghamshire is not only worth a look since the residents are so worried about burglaries but that at least three burglars have already made successful trips there. Shut your bollocks in the drawer there, didn't you Paul? Anyway, don't the police tell us that burglars are almost opportunists who just wander around looking for easy targets. How does a static unchanging Google Street View image help them? Anyone looking at my place on Street View will see the ivy hedge and the gate but how will they know if there's anything worth nicking, if the place has window locks and alarms, when people are likely to be home, if there's a dog and whether it's a big softy or a vicious bastard, and are there better opportunities elsewhere in the area? I reckon that's what a burglar would want to know and they're going to get little or nothing of that from Street View, but they will get much or all of it from taking a walk around the neighbourhood.

Besides, there's nothing that Google is doing that is actually new. The Ordnance Survey will have been covering Broughton for decades (latest here if anyone's interested) - Will Paul Jacobs be calling the police about OS I wonder. All minor road names can be obtained from the local A-Z and at several websites, some of which will also have various aerial photography of the area as well. Will Jacobs be complaining about them? And Broughton looks small enough to walk round in an hour or so, which means anyone with a digital camera and decent sized memory card could do exactly what Google's done. Or is he going to call the cops every time someone walks by with a camera, and since pretty much all mobile phones have cameras on these days it would mean he's going to spend a fucking fortune on phone calls.

So what is Google doing that couldn't have been done before? Answer: fuck all, they're just being rather more systematic about it. And where is the invasion of privacy? Answer: there is none because no one can have a reasonable expectation of privacy in public. I think Street View is pointless, a solution looking for a problem. But invasive? Nope. People are getting bent out of shape and there's really no reason. I really have no idea if it's another irrational fear of technology, even though the technology seems to have little practical use for anyone (including burglars), or if it's just the same sort of my-little-world mentality that causes venomous disputes between neighbours over trivial things like an overhanging branch. Whatever the reason the Paul Jacobs of the world need to wake up and realize that any law that prevents Google from gathering images for Street View will inevitably fuck up almost everybody.

*There is the fairly laughable issue of various cunts copyrighting buildings that they have constructed in plain sight of public areas in order to control any commercial photography or prevent it altogether, which personally I think is like leaving your TV on the footpath outside your gate and whinging when it's not there later on - if commercial photography upsets you build the fucking thing in a cave and don't let people in with cameras. I'm not such an extreme libertarian that I'd see the back of all forms of copyright and IP, but this sort of abuse sure as fuck shows a genuine need to reform copyright and IP law and inject some much needed common sense.
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