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Google Businesses The Internet Privacy

Google Says Complete Privacy Does Not Exist 543

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-books dept.
schliz writes "In a submission to court, Google is arguing that in the modern world there can be no expectation of privacy. Google is being sued by a Pennsylvania couple after their home appeared on Google's Street View pages. The couple's house is on a private road clearly marked as private property." Here is our previous story about Google Street View privacy issues.
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Google Says Complete Privacy Does Not Exist

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:02AM (#24414371)

    military installations, the CIA, the NSA, and other sensitive areas- just to see if there really is no privacy in the US.

    • by mikelieman (35628) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:09AM (#24414427) Homepage

      In the case of military, CIA, NSA, &tc. there are fences, gates, guards, dogs and suchlike preventing your access to what they don't want pictures of.

      That said, if these people *really* cared about privacy, they could have put up a gate across the road to ensure no-one just wandered in.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315)

        And when planes fly overhead and take pictures anyway, what are you to do?

        The government is one thing and can get this redacted easliy, but if google earth had to hide the data within the boundary of every single area of private property we wouldn't be left with much.

        • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:22AM (#24414553) Journal

          Nope. The only legal requirement is that Google not set foot on property if it is marked as private property. Google can photograph it from a public street, or any other public land. They can fly over it. They can take pictures from a satellite. They can set up shop in a building across the street (with permission) and go paparazzi to their heart's content.

          They simply cannot step onto the private property without permission.

          • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:47AM (#24414857) Homepage

            The only legal requirement is that Google not set foot on property if it is marked as private property.

            Is that even a legal requirement? A sign marked "private property" isn't the same thing as a sign saying "no trespassing" or "private property---no photographing from beyond this point". I've seen lots of mall parking lots that say "private property"; From what I understand, unless the sign is more specific, you can still show up and do pretty much anything you want until the owner (or his agent, e.g. a mall employee) asks you to leave.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nospam007 (722110)

            >Nope. The only legal requirement is that Google not set foot on property if it is marked as private property....

            Marked how?

            What about Spanish-only speaking citizens?

            What about analphabets, blind people?

            What about other countries, for example India with 23 official Languages and more than 1200 languages spoken around the rural countryside, not to mention a couple of hundred million non-readers as well.

            Without even talking about Google Earth photographing topless people from Satellites in their backyard,

            • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:10AM (#24415165) Homepage

              Needless to say an (english) sign "NO ENTRY", if clearly visible is sufficient. This means that ALSO the utility company and FedEx are forbidden.

              For everyone who does not have "reasonable assumption of permission" (think "the neighbours called 911 and I'm a paramedic"), it is simply forbidden always. Private persons are only allowed to step on private property if (beforehand) invited to do so.

              Above & below your property is state domain. In other words you need permission from the state to fly over your property and you need permission from the state to tunnel under it (assuming you take reasonable precautions to prevent collapse or otherwise damage the property, then again permission to fly over it does not equal permission to dump garbage on it from a plane).

              In most other countries it's simply not clear. The only thing that's very clear about it, in most European countries, is that if someone decides to violate the law, nothing can be done about it (legally it's a mess, since you don't get to find out the identity of the guy trespassing, and physically you don't get to actually remove him).

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by langelgjm (860756)

              What about Spanish-only speaking citizens?

              What about analphabets, blind people?

              What about other countries, for example India with 23 official Languages and more than 1200 languages spoken around the rural countryside, not to mention a couple of hundred million non-readers as well.

              None of the issues you raise apply to Google. Also, to deal with non-English or non-official language speakers, or illiterate people, you could simply use a picture (I don't know, maybe something like this [tripod.com], which took all of three seconds to find on... Google.) As for blind people, I feel like you're probably not going to have many of them wandering around taking photos on private property, but I could be wrong.

              Without even talking about Google Earth photographing topless people from Satellites in their backyard, what about ultralight planes covering the property?

              Or drones, should Google be allowed to use drones to make pictures?

              If not, why? Other companies use air photography too.

              The question is about Street View, which is taken using trucks, not aircraft.

              I don't like being watched either, but they kind of have a point.

              Not really. They say

            • by westlake (615356) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:50AM (#24415747)
              Marked how?
              .

              According to local law, customs and traditions.

              The Google logo on your cap isn't worth s--t when you intrude on a mosque in Mecca or Medina - or the property of a cattleman in Texas.

              His double-barreled shotgun will teach you some manners.

          • by silentcoder (1241496) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:51AM (#24414907) Homepage

            Brings up an interesting point though... if I get a hot air balloon and go low-flying over the neighbourhood taking pictures of all the girls sunbathing topless in their own backyards I am not breaking any law, even if I put the pictures on the net, but if I peer over my wall and take the same picture from my OWN property - I would already be likely to get at least a peeping-tom charged leveled against me.
            Despite the fact that the balloon can probably get me CLEARER pictures that show MORE detail and (for the subject mentioned at least) at a much better angle.

            Makes ME think we should make it illegal to photograph private property even from above, only trouble is - if you DO that, the days of maps (especially streetmaps of urban areas) is over.
            On the other hand, in most parts of the world at least, maps are made by the government and are in the public domain (South Africa is a notable exception which is why GPS-mapping devices took much longer to come to market here, the GPS companies had to license the maps from private companies) - it's easy enough to make an exception ONLY for official government business, and for those who do not want the CIA taking pix either, we can limit it further to "where the results will be placed in the public domain and made easily accessible to all via an established mechanism for doing so such as an archives office, webpage or library".
            If you don't want the government to have special privileges, we could debate about only letting the second part stand (the requirement for public domain publishing of the results and derivative works). At least it would mean that Google earth's data would have to become public domain to be legal.

            Can't see that flying with amount of power that intelligence agencies hold in modern governments though sadly.

          • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:59AM (#24415021)

            No.

            I can point you specifically to 130 IAC 4-1-5 in the Indiana Code. The New York Port Authority has something similar that reaches farther. Maryland does. Ohio. I'd list other states but it has been a while since I traveled around the US for photography.

            Here [boingboing.net] is picture of the signs you'll find around New York, courtesy of the Port Authority. I know from first hand experience that it is enforced.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by startling (717697)

        That said, if these people *really* cared about privacy, they could have put up a gate across the road to ensure no-one just wandered in.

        Why should people have to go the expense of erecting a gate? Why can't businesses like Google ensure their contractors and employees simply behave in a decent and proper manner and have respect for notices?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PhilHibbs (4537)

        if these people *really* cared about privacy, they could have put up a gate across the road to ensure no-one just wandered in.

        Standard internet debate tactic, "if you don't take your point to a ridiculous extreme then it isn't valid".

      • by mdm42 (244204) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @10:53AM (#24418005) Homepage Journal

        They did!

        They posted a sign saying, "Private Road" or similar (I don't know the exact requirements in your country. Arounf here, "Private Road" would suffice.)

        Google minions chose to ignore it. That's crossing the "Do No Evil" line!

        I would expect Google's founder to step up to the bar here and say "We're sorry. Our people screwed up."

        Frankly, if GoogleSat (or whatever) flies over my house (and I become aware of what they're doing) I'm going to shoot the fuckers down.

        • by againjj (1132651) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:59PM (#24420457)
          Not enough in California, USA. Here, "private road" means "this road is not government owned", and that is it. That way, you know whether or not particular laws (like the CA Vehicle Code) apply. I lived on such a road a one point. If you want to legally prevent people from entering, you must have a barrier or a "no trespassing" sign.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wireless Joe (604314)
      How about just photographing around the public streets around Washington DC? Street View keeps a clear radius around the capitol. Can you magine their privacy argument being hauled into a special committee meeting after they catch a congresscritter in an inapropriate situation in one of the DC parks?
  • by cashman73 (855518) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:06AM (#24414397) Journal
    Google is more or less correct. If people really want "true privacy" in today's world, then they really have to never leave their house, never access the internet, never buy anything with a credit card or debit card, and don't forget your tinfoil hat. However, knowing a little bit more about this case, if the property owners in question did have a 'private property' sign up in front of the road that Google went down, then they did trespass onto their property to take the photos. If that's true, then this case is closed. Plain and simple. You don't need any fancy shmancy explanations and definitions of "privacy" here. If there was no sign, then Google did nothing wrong.
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:12AM (#24414445) Journal

      If there was no sign, then Google did nothing wrong.

      FTS: "The couple's house is on a private road clearly marked as private property."

      At least read the summary.....

      (on an unrelated topic, I have to wait more than 4 minutes between posts now. Excellent karma and no downmodded comment in weeks. Excellent system here, guys)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:15AM (#24414493)

      Next time I see a Google van on my private roads, it will be greeted with a bazooka. On my lands, there can be "no expectation of safety."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by yincrash (854885)
      this appears to be about the same case that was reported back in april http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0404081google1.html [thesmokinggun.com] it's hard to tell because the linked article in this slashdot story has pretty much no identifying information besides "Pennsylvania" and "private road" however, there are a couple of these roads marked as "Private Road" in Pittsburgh. I believe when I first heard about it, there were several of these roads "street view"able. this one has been taken off as well as a co
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        God I hope it's the house shown here. [thesmokinggun.com] I'd really like to see how well that argument of "lowering the value of their house" works. I mean, I'm pretty much seeing a small shack on some dirt with a coupla garages. But they do have a pool!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by GameboyRMH (1153867)

          That's how the property value was lowered - they allowed people to get a good look at the house beforehand. Same way that when cars are for sale online, the gaping rust holes and frame damage are conveniently not seen in the pics - having proper pics available would decrease the car's value.

          It's not a bad house to me though, it mostly just needs some landscaping to give it that nice pre-apocalypse look...but then again I'm not a real estate junkie who needs to have a perfect house so that it looks like I'm

    • I'll call bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338)

      Basically what you're arguing there is that because so many people can violate your privacy, then you don't have any expectation of privacy in the first place. And that your only recourse if you want "true privacy" is to never be in a situation where someone else can rape it for you. Which seems to me like complete bullshit.

      Let's apply that kind of reasoning to other kinds of interactions:

      - everyone can bash in your door and steal your computer, so you don't have any expectations against breaking and enteri

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:06AM (#24414403)
    This is what starts to happen when people don't bother to protect their privacy: the notion of privacy itself starts to vanish. If this argument flies, privacy will become a thing of the past, and people who to protect their own privacy will just be labeled as "paranoid weirdos."
    • by jgijanto (1125695) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:22AM (#24414555)

      Yep. I can't help but feel we're entering an age of total surveillance. Both major contenders for US President voted in favor of FISA legislation - it's just one step in the incremental process of the decimation of individual privacy.

      It was only the "left wing liberals" who stirred up much of a fuss over this, and everyone knows that they're nutjobs anyway. The majority of the American populace is uneducated or uninterested in these issues, and they're happy to sit idly by while their freedom erodes before their eyes!

    • by DeathToBill (601486) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:22AM (#24414557) Journal

      I don't think many of you realise it, but this is very much an American discussion. The whole privacy/trespass thing is an Americanism, and the rest of us *already* think you're "paranoid weirdos" (joke, joke).

      Seriously, though, in England and Wales there is an established legal Right to Wander; so long as I don't do damage, I can wander wherever I like. Am I tresspassing? The owner can do nothing about it unless I do damage. Am I invading their privacy by taking photos of their property? Tough.

      This is not a failure of the law; it is a balance of the rights of the public versus the rights of individual property owners. My rights as a member of the public trump theirs as property owners, in this case.

      • by Tim C (15259) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:41AM (#24414773)

        I'm not sure that the right to roam gives you quite as much freedom as you think it does - I can't spend long researching it, but google searches suggest that it applies to open countryside. You most certainly do not have the right to roam on to my driveway, for example, which is clearly private property.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "in England and Wales there is an established legal Right to Wander".
        No there isn't. The 'right to roam' act merely codifies access to land we already had access to.

        To quote from the Ramblers' site (http://www.ramblers.org.uk/freedom/),
        "This new legal right - or right to roam - provided by The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW), applies only to mapped areas of uncultivated, open countryside namely mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land."

        As someone who takes part in shooting activ

      • by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:50AM (#24414899)
        The "public" (whatever that means) has no rights. There are only individual rights, and those rights are only valid so long as one individual does not violate the rights of others. One person walking on your lawn doesn't do damage, but hundreds of them, over the course of months, will tear it up. Suppose your lawn was a convenient shortcut for kids going home from school. Is it perfectly acceptable for them to destroy your lawn, and you to have to repair it at your expense? Of course not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        In the UK The Human Rights Act declares that people have a right to privacy. It also requires that previous legislation be read in a way that is compatible with it, thus meaning any right to wander should be probably interpreted as a right to wander in situations where it does not interfere with people's right to privacy. (This is not legal advice)
  • by CountBrass (590228) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:08AM (#24414417)
    This is a complete nonsense. Just because some set of pillocks (Paris Hilton, Jordan, everyone on Big Brother) gives up their privacy or Google decides to build a business invading people's privacy doesn't take away my right to it.

    I hope the Court gives Google a big punch in the face in the form of an exemplary fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Colonel Korn (1258968)

      This is a complete nonsense. Just because some set of pillocks (Paris Hilton, Jordan, everyone on Big Brother) gives up their privacy or Google decides to build a business invading people's privacy doesn't take away my right to it.

      I hope the Court gives Google a big punch in the face in the form of an exemplary fine.

      Maybe now it should be, "Do no evil unless we can get away with it with legal fees that are lower than the estimated profit we can make from the project related to the evil," which is the same as pretty much any company.

  • Satellite Images (Score:5, Interesting)

    by c_sd_m (995261) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:09AM (#24414423)
    The summary and TFA are short on details but it seems that Google's arguing that since satellite photos are permissible, there can't be an expectation of privacy wrt street-level photos.

    There's a big difference in the detail available in most sat photos versus Street View. It'll be interesting to see what gets considered private or public. Currently, it seems it's okay if you can tell I have a black car but not that my front door's red.
  • Trespass (Score:5, Informative)

    by scharkalvin (72228) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:11AM (#24414437) Homepage

    If the photo had been obtained from space then there is no case. But if a google car drove down a private street that was marked private property then they do have a good case for trespass. Normally such roads are gated though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jeiler (1106393)
      That's the problem--did the Google car actually drive down the "private road," or were the photos taken from a public street with a camera pointed towards the property? If it's the former, then Google's toast (and should be). But if it's the latter ... I have to admit I don't see the issue.
  • by Rob Kaper (5960) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:14AM (#24414479) Homepage

    We should collect the home addresses of Google employees (preferably at the top level) and install some webcams ourselves.

    Or hire some papparazi to annoy them.. would finally give Britney a break as well.

  • Trespassing (Score:5, Informative)

    by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info&devinmoore,com> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:14AM (#24414483) Homepage Journal

    Let's see what happens when google street view tries to do this in Texas, where you can legally shoot someone for encroaching on private property to perform "criminal mischief"... I'm sure they'll agree that taking photos on private property counts as criminal mischief in Texas, assuming it's clearly posted as private property.

    • If you do that, you will go to jail.

      ", despite these efforts, someone trespasses on your property, the best thing to do is to call the sheriff and let them handle the trespasser. If for some reason you cannot have law enforcement intervene, Texas law (Section 9.41 of the Texas Penal Code) allows you to use "reasonable force" to protect your property. Reasonable force includes any force that is not potentially lethal. This would probably include physically blocking the trespasser's entry onto the land and

  • by Chineseyes (691744) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:34AM (#24414681)
    So if I sit in front of Google's NYC office and pick random employees to follow around with a camera or hire a team of paparazzi to chase Larry Page and Sergey Brin around everywhere they go there shouldn't be a problem?
  • Im not sure (Score:3, Informative)

    by WillRobinson (159226) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:36AM (#24414719) Journal

    First IANAL, and the laws vary from state to state but here is my take, as being a hunter and running into these situations.

    1. Private property sign if placed off the road, means you cant trespass off the road onto the fenced in land.

    2. Driving up the above road is not illegal. Even if there is a sign that says "private drive" as long as there was no gate. If there was a gate, and you breached the gate to drive up the "private drive" then you would have trespassed.

    3. Making a film of property marked private property is not illegal. Filming off a private drive that is not gated is not illegal.

    Now that I said that, I think it would have been proper, to go ahead and go up to the house and ask them if it was ok, it would only have taken a minute. But the act of driving up the ungated road and filming while they were driving on it will not be found trespass.

  • by freeweed (309734) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:45AM (#24414827)

    I think I speak for many of us oldtimers when I say:

    GOOGLE! GET THE HELL OFF MY LAWN!

  • Dear Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) * on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:45AM (#24414829) Journal

    Fuck you. If there's no such thing as privacy in the modern world, it's because fuckwit corps think they can do whatever they damn well please. Way to reveal yourself as one of them.

  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:46AM (#24414839) Homepage Journal

    That's a quote from "The State of the Art", a short story by Iain M. Banks where a Culture contact ship visits Earth. One of them is visiting a colleague in an apartment in Paris, and sees a sign saying "No photographs allowed". The idea of owning the light and imposing restrictions on its use is just preposterous to her.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:15AM (#24415243)
    "Your honour, my clients knocked on the gate and shouted 'WHERE'S YOUR ROBOTS.TXT?' three times. When the plaintiffs didn't answer, that's when my clients opened the gate and took pictures of everything. What's wrong with that? Nothing! I rest my case."
  • Problem is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:20AM (#24415329)

    Privacy is not a "right". Your only right is to keep your information private, but you do not have a right *to* privacy.

    In this case, it is a matter of trespassing and should be treated as such.

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