Lexie (polyhymnia) wrote,

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There are real effects of making information more available

Via BoingBoing, the NYT tells us what Google says about Street View:

Google said in a statement that it takes privacy seriously and considered the privacy implications of its service before it was introduced on Tuesday. “Street View only features imagery taken on public property,” the company said. “This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street.”

I'm so sick of hearing this argument. It takes so much more effort to visit and walk by an address than it does to look it up on Google, and this amount of effort multiplies hugely with multiple addresses. It takes twice as much time to look up one address in SF and one in NY as to just look up one in SF, but many thousands of times more effort to actually to go both.

Just because you're providing publicly-available data does NOT mean you are not doing something that raises major privacy concerns. Some of the comments in the BB post are very good.

I'm not opposed to Google Street View or to the many other services that provide public data over the internet by search instead of providing it through means that make it less easy to access (mostly I think they're cool and helpful), but seriously, I want to stop hearing this argument. Make a better argument. Show that you actually care about people's actual privacy, their privacy in practice, and not just their privacy in theory and the technicalities of the law.

The Facebook controversy over the news feed should have taught this lesson to every company that suddenly provides a really easy way to access a lot of personal behavior at one time. Yes, the info available on the news feed was already available. However, 99% of it was never known to 99% of people, because who looks at every profile update of every friend they have every time they log in to Facebook? No one. Who reads their news feed? Everyone. (I tried to turn off the feed I get of others because it annoys the crap out of me -- and I can't.) It's a huge difference in practice. Google Street View is that on a huge and very much more personal scale: all activity on Facebook is virtual. GSV is showing things that happen in the real world. Where you live. Where you go. Where your cat likes to hang out. Being able to find that with one click is so clearly different from being able to find it by travelling to the place itself that I can't believe Google gets away with making that statement their official position.

I want to hear something better.
Tags: civil rights, google

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