Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Businesses The Internet Government The Courts News

Judge Dismisses Google Street View Case 258

Posted by samzenpus
from the never-go-against-the-google dept.
angry tapir writes "A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania family against Google after the company took and posted images of the outside of their house in its Maps service. The lawsuit, filed in April 2008, drew attention because it sought to challenge Google's right to take street-level photos for its Maps' Street View feature. Judge Amy Reynolds Hay from the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granted Google's request for dismissing the lawsuit because 'the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under any count.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Judge Dismisses Google Street View Case

Comments Filter:
  • roadkill (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alain94040 (785132) * on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:19PM (#26910257) Homepage

    My favorite Google Street View story: Google Maps Car Hits Deer [gizmodo.com].

    Just like the settlement it reached with book authors, Google could give $66 to each homeowner photographed by StreetView. We could call that agreement the Google stimulus package :-)

    There is a serious discussion to be had about privacy rights and Google's objective to picture, reference and catalog everything. Some inside Google take the "do no evil" to heart. Street View blurs faces and license plates.

    Good, but I wish it didn't have to be voluntary. We know what voluntary compliance by various industries lead to. That's why privacy laws have to set clear boundaries. In the dismissed lawsuit, note that the Google driver did enter a private road by mistake. Mistakes in sensitive privacy situations can be very damaging.

    --
    Join a FairSoftware Project [fairsoftware.net]: share the revenue, be part of important decisions

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Just like the settlement it reached with book authors, Google could give $66 to each homeowner photographed by StreetView.

      That would just be silly and expensive. Nothing more.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267)

        That would just be silly and expensive. Nothing more.

        Lawsuits are very often silly and expensive too, but you're right, that would if anything just alert people that they might be able to get more money.

      • Nothing more.

        Nothing more if you don't care about privacy.

        One of the first things we learned in the photography class I took in college was that photographing and selling the photos of someone's house is illegal in some places without the owner signing a release form, just as it's illegal to photograph people who are clearly identifiable in public and selling those photos. The only tyme it is legal when a release form is not signed but the photo is sold is if it is used as part of an editorial. Now, it ma

        • Google isn't selling said photos.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ash Vince (602485)

          .... just as it's illegal to photograph people who are clearly identifiable in public and selling those photos.

          Yet there is an entire industry that does just this to people in the public eye. Is there some legal exemption for people who have been previously in same lame film or made a pop song?

          Or are you in fact talking complete and utter rubbish.

          If there was such a law you can bet people like Brad Pitt and Britney Spears would be using it regularly to get some privacy from the Paparazzi.

          There is only one law I can think of that this would break, and that MIGHT be Sharia Law, but since I am not an expert on the Qur

    • Re:roadkill (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:23PM (#26910329)
      Google driver did enter a private road by mistake. There is now available a very sophisticated bit of technology that is guaranteed to ensure that this never happens again. I believe the scientific name for the device is a "gate".
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        IF car EQUALS allowed to be there THEN open ELSE fire missiles
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          this checks for it once. I believe the proper stub code is as follows:

          5 REM based on code by Wandering Wombat
          10 IF car$ = "allowed to be there" THEN GOSUB 30 ELSE GOSUB 40
          20 GOTO 10
          30 REM open gate code goes here
          35 REM RETURN would be nice but why, when you can see how fast that guy can floor it 'cause...
          40 REM fire missiles code goes here
          45 RETURN

        • Re:roadkill (Score:5, Funny)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @09:18PM (#26911519) Journal

          You appear to be testing whether the car is equal to the constant expression 'allowed to be here' rather than testing whether the 'allowed to be here' property for the car is true. Since you are comparing things of two different types for equality, it seems that the most likely result of this will be to fire missiles at everything that approaches.

          Remind me not to visit your house...

          • "Some languages don't have C/C++'s brain-damaged '=' operator behaviour.", says the professional C++ programmer.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by M. Baranczak (726671)

            He's overloaded an operator for the car class. That bit of code was omitted for the sake of clarity.

      • Re:roadkill (Score:5, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:29PM (#26910389) Homepage Journal

        No.
        We can not afford to continue down the vein of 'If it isn't locked, then you deserve what happens to you' line of thinking.
        It's crap, it's harmful, and it only empowers criminals, and insurance companies...but I repeat myself.

        • Re:roadkill (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Pinckney (1098477) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:55PM (#26910709)

          No. We can not afford to continue down the vein of 'If it isn't locked, then you deserve what happens to you' line of thinking. It's crap, it's harmful, and it only empowers criminals, and insurance companies...but I repeat myself.

          Do you care to explain why? I think it is perfectly reasonable to drive down someone's driveway, and unless they tell me to leave, post notices prohibiting it, or make the drive inaccessible. There are certainly harmless and perfectly legitimate reasons to enter another's property. Why institute a blanket prohibition?

        • Re:roadkill (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dissy (172727) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @08:19PM (#26910993)

          We can not afford to continue down the vein of 'If it isn't locked, then you deserve what happens to you' line of thinking.

          But there is two sides to things here.

          Yes, you can't have a blanket "if it isn't locked" type of rule, because that would lead to chaos.

          However, you can't have a blanket rule the other way too far either.
          I mean, if you were wandering about outside some evening, and accidentally walked on someones private property that you didn't realize was theirs but thought was still public... What are you to do when you discover your mistake?

          Most people would leave if told of that fact. You say 'whoops, my bad' and go away off the private property back the way you came.
          I don't believe we need to make that person a criminal for such a small and easily fixable mistake.

          I don't know, i wasn't there, but it could easily have been just that type of mistake as it is to be a malicious attack on someones privacy by the Google van.

          I'm fairly sure when asked that Google does remove photos people are in. That is similar to saying 'whoops, our bad, we will fix it' to me.

          Maybe I'm missing something here for a reason the Google van drivers aren't getting the benefit of the doubt?

          • by TubeSteak (669689)

            I mean, if you were wandering about outside some evening, and accidentally walked on someones private property that you didn't realize was theirs but thought was still public... What are you to do when you discover your mistake?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_public_access_to_the_wilderness [wikipedia.org]
            (also known as "right to wander" and "right to ramble")
            Just because it doesn't exist in the USA, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

            Off the top of my head: beaches are the only thing, in the USA, I can think of that are always public and you can always cross private land to reach.

            Maybe I'm missing something here for a reason the Google van drivers aren't getting the benefit of the doubt?

            I wouldn't think that a reasonable person could consider a dirt driveway to be a public access road.
            A case obviously existed, but their day in court ended because the

            • The state of WI has something similar with fishing. When walking a stream, anything below the 'high-water' line is considered public land, even if it passes through private land.

              The vast majority of land owners are well aware of this, but you occasionally find someone that puts a barbwire fence across a stream. I never bothered to cross those since there are many other places to go and it is not worth getting shot to prove a point, but I always reported those.

              The next year those would be gone. I alwa

              • by hedwards (940851)

                That's fairly common, but the type of right that the GP was referring to isn't connected in such a way. You can wander through yards and properties without being harassed. Well, assuming you're behaving and not wrecking things.

                That was one of the stark differences between the US and Switzerland. It seems to work for them, but I can't imagine it working without a long cultural tradition.

            • by dissy (172727)

              Just because it doesn't exist in the USA, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
              Off the top of my head: beaches are the only thing, in the USA, I can think of that are always public and you can always cross private land to reach.

              Well, the article Was about a Google van on a road in the USA.
              Just because t does exist outside of the USA, doesn't mean it does here.

              I wouldn't think that a reasonable person could consider a dirt driveway to be a public access road.
              A case obviously existed, but their day in court ended because their lawyer apparently didn't know what s/he was doing.

              Well, there is always that.
              I have seen nothing about the particular road, so can't say what I would choose personally in that situation.
              Then there is always the question of how do they know where they are going? Personally I would use GPS and a map... or two maps, one in paper form, Just Incase(tm)

              The point is, there Are situations where it is not at all obvious.
              If it was li

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by onepoint (301486)

              >>Off the top of my head: beaches are the only thing, in the USA, I can think of that are always public and you can always cross private land to reach.

              Nope, not true, In NJ unless it has become a common access point ( has been open to the public and in use for 1 year or longer), you can shut your entrance to the beach. I know this to be valid in Point Pleasant, Long Beach Island, Deal, and Mantoloking. http://www.app.com/article/20081220/NEWS/81220018 [app.com]

              currently in California, some people have refused t

            • by pnewhook (788591)

              I wouldn't think that a reasonable person could consider a dirt driveway to be a public access road. A case obviously existed, but their day in court ended because their lawyer apparently didn't know what s/he was doing.

              No there was no case here at all and their lawyer knew it. It was a stupid lawsuit and deserved to be thrown out. The morons raising the lawsuit should have been made to pay for the defendants court costs as well.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Dekortage (697532)

              Off the top of my head: beaches are the only thing, in the USA, I can think of that are always public and you can always cross private land to reach.

              Upstate New York's Adirondack State Park [wikipedia.org] is over six million acres of forest, mountains, lakes, and streams -- the largest state park in the continental U.S., almost as large as the entire state of Massachussetts. Half of the land in it, is actually privately-owned. Years ago, I hiked and camped there a lot, and frequently hiked along a state trail, only to

          • by WiPEOUT (20036)

            There's a world of difference between an accidental trespasser immediately leaving the property and one posting photos taken of people who have an expectation of privacy then posting them on the Internet.

            Once such a photo hits the Internet, just removing it will not magically delete it from everywhere it has been distributed to.

        • by laura20 (21566)

          You are in fact required to post when a public road changes to a private one, if you want no-trespassing laws to be enforced. So yes, you do need to 'lock your door', in this case. (I don't know if this road was visibly posted or not, I'm just noting the general case.)

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:28PM (#26910387)

      I agree that mistakes in sensitive privacy situations can be damaging. But this particular plaintiff, the court found, failed to show that it was damaging in their situation, which is the requirement to sue for damages. They claimed they suffered $25,000 in emotional anguish, and the court held that they didn't provide any plausible legal arguments to support that damage claim.

      If we do think, as a matter of public policy, that even harmless violations should be penalized in order to discourage them, there's a way to do that: pass a law that establishes a fine for such violations. The fine, of course, should go to the government, not the plaintiff, unless the plaintiff actually was harmed. Public policy via, you know, actual laws and law enforcement, not ambulance-chasing lawyers and "mental-anguish"-inventing plaintiffs.

      • by Hao Wu (652581)
        I wonder how this judge would feel having her home exhibited thanks to Google. Suddenly she'd be good friends with Barbra Streisand...
      • Seems like this should have been fairly simple to resolve. Kick the google van off their property (they did have "no trespassing" signs up) and have google remove the offending issues.

        Assigning damaging here is ridiculous, aside from possibly some minor amount to cover the plaintiff's legal costs.

    • Re:roadkill (Score:5, Funny)

      by Renderer of Evil (604742) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:41PM (#26910551) Homepage

      I'll see your deer photo and raise you Pittsburgh Samurai Battle [google.com]

      • Was that staged?

        It seems as if that short bit of Charlick Way and Sampsonia Street was taken at a different time of the day from the other streets.

        Go down federal street and you'll see it's sunny with clear skies (and no battle) till it passes Sampsonia Street, then it becomes wet and cloudy (with the battle) then in the next shot it's back to sunny (and not battle) again. Similarly for Charlick Way.

        Maybe they somehow missed that bit in an earlier pass and came back later when coincidentally a battle starte
    • There is a serious discussion to be had about privacy rights and Google's objective to picture, reference and catalog everything. Some inside Google take the "do no evil" to heart. Street View blurs faces and license plates.

      One would expect them to worry at least as much and blur the military bases [timesonline.co.uk] of their own and friendly nations... You know, the gals and guys, who ensure that Google (and its, supposedly, privacy-minded insiders) can continue to exist...

      • by brusk (135896)

        You would expect the US and allied militaries to be on the ball enough to tell them to do so. Google does blur lots of military installations, but can't be expected to blur every possible base because they don't know beforehand where they are. This is a failure by the Pentagon, not by Google.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rtb61 (674572)

      The idea is just wrong. The very concept of local and state planning requirements puts the external view of your property as owned by the community around you, as they are the ones who must see it and their property values in turn are affected by it. This goes for commercial as well as residential and of course government properties. Anybody can see as it is on public display and anybody by extension can preserve a memory of it either upon a biological, digital or printed form.

      Google certainly should be

      • by barzok (26681)

        perhaps even people and vehicle registration plates but the external view of your property is something that is on show to the public

        Do you blank out your plates while you're driving? That's on show to the public all the time.

    • they have since removed the image. [google.com] But if you look carefully, you can see the deer on the left before it got hit.
    • Re:roadkill (Score:5, Funny)

      by bacontaco (126431) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @08:36PM (#26911167)

      Street View blurs faces and license plates.

      Google maps is also good at respecting the privacy of retired military officers [google.com]!

  • Strike one for those who believe that not every dispute should be resolved in court, and not every resolution must involve money damages.
    • by deek (22697)

      "Strike one" or "Score one"?

      This is certainly a case which didn't need to go to court. Google will quite happily remove their pictures if they want. Any anguish suffered was brought on by their own actions. Barely anyone would have seen the pictures had it not been publicised by the court case.

      Anyway, the Boorings will probably be slapped with a bill from their lawyer, thus teaching them a very valuable lesson.

  • The Borings (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kinky Bass Junk (880011) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:24PM (#26910337)

    Judge Amy Reynolds Hay from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, granted Google's request for dismissing the lawsuit because "the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under any count.""

    Was that because they were too Boring?

    • The Borings lost a case but they uncovered a treasure trove of jokes at their expense.

      "Hey, it's that Boring kid from school!"

  • Google blurred the satellite photo of the US Naval observatory in DC, a public building, in order to protect VP Cheney.

    If Google is willing to protect the privacy of a public figure than it ought to be even more protective of the privacy of a private homeowner by burring a photo taken while being a non-invited intruder on that homeowner's own property.

    • Google blurred the satellite photo of the US Naval observatory in DC, a public building, in order to protect VP Cheney.

      If Google is willing to protect the privacy of a man who can shoot you in the face with impunity

      FTFY

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Which is exactly what they did, you just need to ask as I'm sure the whitehouse/pentagon/navy/ did.

      http://maps.google.com/help/maps/streetview/faq.html#q6 [google.com]

      But seriously taking a still picture from a public place without even using a telephoto lens seems a bit of a stretch to label "intruder".

      My vacation snap shots have numerous people I don't know in them, and numerous houses in the background too. The photos of my kid playing in the yard has the neighbors house in it too. Are you seriously suggesting I shou

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @12:14AM (#26912837)
    is that the couple requested Google remove photos of the home which Google complied. Yet the couple still claimed "damages"

This file will self-destruct in five minutes.

Working...