Friday, June 01, 2007

The Google Eyes Are Watching

The following is a conversation I will soon be having with some Young Republican Person. I don't know which one, living out here in the "Burbs", there are a plethora of them from which to choose .
Me: "Don't you miss the days when the only people who were watching were the private dicks your wife hired and J. Edger Hoover? The days when privacy was not only allowed but protected?

"Now everyone is looking at your credit report, at satellite images of your neighborhood, even at the image scans from your hometown paper that show a picture of you dancing up a storm at that Olivia Newton John concert. Google has even introduced Street View actual images from addresses that you can ID by search. If technology were a person, you'd call them a stalker the way they keep track of us."

Young Republican Person: "Privacy? What the hell is that? What are you some sort of liberal throwback, some technology Luddite who fails to see the greater good that the Internet and it's great gatekeeper Google have provided? I, for one, am thankful for our new Google overlords and you'd be smart to feel the same.

By the way, who's J. Edger Hoover?"
Basically, this new feature from Google Maps called Street View lets you look up an address and then gives you a picture from the street of the said address. Being the Luddite that I am, I think this is an invasion of privacy. Apparently, I'm not the only one.

NYTimes: Google Zooms In Too Close for Some Google hits streets, raises privacy concerns

Before you get started, I know, it is a public street, anyone can walk along and take a picture of just about anything including me or my house. But the content of the picture isn't the issue, it's the distribution.

Look what happened to Allison Stokke. She had her picture taken by some guy, the picture gets up on the Internet and suddenly lechers from around the world are sending her e-mails and posting on message boards about how they'd have sex with her. Is that the price she pays for being attractive, the collective prurient obsession of the net? Suddenly being hot justifies endless e-mails, phone calls and ever multiplying Internet postings about your actions and activities? She didn't ask for it, it just happened, and she doesn't deserve the fear and aggravation that goes with it.

So now, by merely existing, Google can post a picture of you or your house on the net and that is just the price you pay for living in a free society? I don't buy that at all. Along with freedom of speech goes the right to privacy, and that right doesn't end because Google wants to provide the world with a cute gimmick that helps pad their corporate pockets. If they have an image of my house or my person, they should have to ask to use it and provide me compensation if I agree.

I am not a public figure, I have a reasonable expectation of privacy that does not end just because my house isn't surrounded by a privacy fence or because I've ventured out beyond the threshold of my front door. The value to public discourse and the general good to society of having those photos available is next to nil while the damage to my right to privacy is not only clear, but potentially dangerous.

But don't take my word for it, just take a moment to wonder how this guy feels about Street View. I'm willing to bet he was comfortable with being seen on the street, but visible to the entire world is a whole different thing.

Google may be watching so be sure you don't scratch your ass in public, you might find yourself the object of the world's attention. Like that blond in the Google photo above. Don't those pants make her ass look fat!

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