Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Google maps expand to Southern CA

"Redrawing the realm of privacy" :

"It is a visual reminder of how our private spaces are really shrinking," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a San Diego advocacy group. "We've never had the expectation of privacy in public places, but it's the technology that causes us to reexamine this. Computers have very long memories."


"They should build in privacy protection mechanisms as a matter of course," said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. "I don't see them proactively addressing the privacy implications of their various products, and they need to."

If Google doesn't have the tools now, advocates say, it could in short order, because software companies are working on far more complex technology for recognizing specific faces.

"The Street View issue is part of a broad trend where more and more information is taken from the public," [Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation] said. "We expect some degree of anonymity in our lives. How does one maintain a free society when all of your activity is scrutinized?"

Some privacy advocates also suggested that Google post notices saying which streets or neighborhoods it planned to target on a given day so that people averse to being photographed could steer clear.

Some interesting insights from readers of the tech savvy blog BoingBoing:

Marcus says,

Google is socialising the cost of privacy protection by choosing an opt-out approach rather than opt-in or an expensive internal review of the collected data. On the other hand, it is privatizing the public data and any profit derived from that. It is thus no less evil than other corporations, and considerably more evil than the NSA or CIA, who at least in principle can be held accountable as public institutions.

Ripley says,

All the discussion on what our privacy rights are in law is interesting, but people should recognize that what's going on here is beyond law, and reveals gaping holes in law.

Folks seem to grasp that pretty readily when it's copyright law, but it's just as true for privacy.

In the same way that law doesn't adequately capture what's important about the AACS code, law doesn't really help us understand what's problematic about google allowing us to watch each other remotely.

Law here has been partly shaped by what was physically possible - we didn't need to have laws about being watched and recorded remotely by people we can't see who may be doing it for fun or profit…or for the government.

…So falling back on what our "rights" are under law is just not going to get us very far.

Also, it's important to ask ask "what if the CIA were doing it" especially because there is nothing stopping them from using the service now, and of course they will. So might health insurance agencies, your boss, stalkers you know, stalkers you don't know, parents of people you are dating, etc etc etc. Alongside all the people/groups who might be unsympathetic to you and take images of you out of context for their own purposes, we should also be concerned about the lack of belief that we have any rights not specifically defined by law.