Google getting held to higher privacy standard that Microsoft or Amazon

Man, the story about the cat in the window on Google’s new Street Level photography is getting TONS of mainstream press play. Even Ronn Owens on KGO Radio (usually known as a middle-of-the-road calming voice) was furious about the new feature yesterday.

I always thought that Google would get bad PR over some sort of privacy issue, but this? This is the WRONG issue for privacy folks to be worried about. Truth is this isn’t nearly as bad as some of the stuff that advertisers are doing or are thinking of doing with their databases. Let’s go down the supermarket aisle. What does buying a Coke say about you? Not much, right? Well, what if you buy tampons? Doesn’t the marketing world know a little more about you now? How about when you buy AC/DC off of iTunes? Or when you go into 7/11 and buy some condoms? What about when you go to Amazon and buy a book about how to create a great resume? How about when you watch Oprah on TV?

And on and on. What these companies will do with those databases (and the inferences they’ll make about who I am) worries me a lot more than whether you can see the front of my house and/or whether or not I have a cat in the window. Already our anti-terrorist folks are using such databases to figure out who might be a threat to society. Just go into a store and buy three tons of fertilizer and rent a truck and see what happens to you.

But, back to the issue. Truth is Amazon did street side photography more than a year ago (they’ve since taken down A9 maps). Then Microsoft did it on its Virtual Earth site. Heck, Microsoft didn’t just do street side in exactly the same way that Google is doing now, but flew a plane over major cities. Here’s a video I did with Microsoft’s street side mapping team. What if the drug agency was using that photography to find your rooftop marijuana plants? Or, if you were sunbathing naked?

Why no uproar about those things?

Ahh, FOG. Fear Of Google.

Thanks for protecting my privacy. Now, what about the patterning software that marketers are working on to figure out what kind of person I am based on my purchases?

I know why the media (including many bloggers) isn’t worried about THAT. It’s too hard to explain in two minutes. Instead they focus on a cat in a Window. Got it.

At least now Microsofties can’t complain that they are being held to a higher standard than Google is.

Oh, and does anyone find any irony in the fact that Mary Kalin-Casey dislikes Google taking a picture of her cat from the street but invited a New York Times photographer into her house to take even more pictures? Can anyone spell hypocrite?

88 thoughts on “Google getting held to higher privacy standard that Microsoft or Amazon

  1. not much is left private anymore. If you want privacy, get off of your fat ass and close the darn blinds!

  2. not much is left private anymore. If you want privacy, get off of your fat ass and close the darn blinds!

  3. Actually MS took a lot of criticism last year when they did this: http://preview.local.live.com/

    There were some complaining about privacy, and others claiming that they had ripped-off Amazon. People love to bitch and moan at anything that’s big and successful, its just a fact of life.

  4. Actually MS took a lot of criticism last year when they did this: http://preview.local.live.com/

    There were some complaining about privacy, and others claiming that they had ripped-off Amazon. People love to bitch and moan at anything that’s big and successful, its just a fact of life.

  5. As a photographer, I deal with these issues in my own work. As a professor I teach photographer’s how to deal with these issues. Anything that can be seen from street level without the use of a big (the really only gray area here) zoom lens, is NOT private. Keep your blinds closed or anything away from the windows if you don’t want people on the street seeing them. Still afraid? Move to a ranch in Montana with hundreds of acres keeping those prying 35mph cameras away. Or better yet move underground so the big scary cameras in the sky can’t see you.

    As for people going into strip clubs and the like, if you are afraid of being seen doing it, don’t do it.

    As for your license plate, you have got to be kidding me. Thousands of people can see it every day along with thousands of other plates, who cares if anyone sees it.

    If they start showing color xray images showing inside your home then feel violated.

  6. As a photographer, I deal with these issues in my own work. As a professor I teach photographer’s how to deal with these issues. Anything that can be seen from street level without the use of a big (the really only gray area here) zoom lens, is NOT private. Keep your blinds closed or anything away from the windows if you don’t want people on the street seeing them. Still afraid? Move to a ranch in Montana with hundreds of acres keeping those prying 35mph cameras away. Or better yet move underground so the big scary cameras in the sky can’t see you.

    As for people going into strip clubs and the like, if you are afraid of being seen doing it, don’t do it.

    As for your license plate, you have got to be kidding me. Thousands of people can see it every day along with thousands of other plates, who cares if anyone sees it.

    If they start showing color xray images showing inside your home then feel violated.

  7. Scoble…it wasn’t the cat in the window. It was the pics of people outside adult bookstores, strip clubs, etc. that really got people up in arms. Google needs to be a little more responsible about what they put up, they’re looking at serious legal action if it keeps up.

  8. Scoble…it wasn’t the cat in the window. It was the pics of people outside adult bookstores, strip clubs, etc. that really got people up in arms. Google needs to be a little more responsible about what they put up, they’re looking at serious legal action if it keeps up.

  9. @39 “f I were standing outside of your house, I could see your *manliness,* even without my glasses and my vision’s pretty bad,..”

    That’s true, but that’s not the point. Now, if you took a picture and posted on the internet for all to see, that’s going a bit too far. That’s the point. Sure people can walk by and see things. But, broadcasting those point in time images for all the world to see? Without ones permission?

  10. @39 “f I were standing outside of your house, I could see your *manliness,* even without my glasses and my vision’s pretty bad,..”

    That’s true, but that’s not the point. Now, if you took a picture and posted on the internet for all to see, that’s going a bit too far. That’s the point. Sure people can walk by and see things. But, broadcasting those point in time images for all the world to see? Without ones permission?

  11. RE: Kenny(#28)

    You say this: “Let’s say I’m studying the history of Nazi Germany and the history of Communism, and Google photos “Mein Kamf” and “Commusist Manifesto” on my bookshelf. Or let’s say I have some porn mags or private marijuana plant in my home.”

    There’s a big, and incredibly important disctinction you’re missing. These two things could not reasonably be seen from the street. They’re inside your private property and using an insane camera zoom to photograph them *is* going too far, unlike the case of the cat and yes, you naked (towel much?). If I were standing outside of your house, I could see your *manliness,* even without my glasses and my vision’s pretty bad, but not your marijuana and not your bookshelf and not your porn. There’s the difference, and that’s why this is about a cat.

    Also, your comment amuses me because of the coincidence that I bought both of those books from Amazon. Oh no, I hope I’m not on a secret list somewhere. And if I *am* on account of buying these important works, then we have far, far greater problems ahead.

  12. RE: Kenny(#28)

    You say this: “Let’s say I’m studying the history of Nazi Germany and the history of Communism, and Google photos “Mein Kamf” and “Commusist Manifesto” on my bookshelf. Or let’s say I have some porn mags or private marijuana plant in my home.”

    There’s a big, and incredibly important disctinction you’re missing. These two things could not reasonably be seen from the street. They’re inside your private property and using an insane camera zoom to photograph them *is* going too far, unlike the case of the cat and yes, you naked (towel much?). If I were standing outside of your house, I could see your *manliness,* even without my glasses and my vision’s pretty bad, but not your marijuana and not your bookshelf and not your porn. There’s the difference, and that’s why this is about a cat.

    Also, your comment amuses me because of the coincidence that I bought both of those books from Amazon. Oh no, I hope I’m not on a secret list somewhere. And if I *am* on account of buying these important works, then we have far, far greater problems ahead.

  13. What does buying a Coke say about you? Not much, right? Well, what if you buy tampons? Doesn’t the marketing world know a little more about you now? How about when you buy AC/DC off of iTunes?

    Wow Robert. You really had me going there….

    With regards to the latter? It’s be saying a hell of a lot about a person. AC/DC isn’t available on iTunes.
    :-)

  14. What does buying a Coke say about you? Not much, right? Well, what if you buy tampons? Doesn’t the marketing world know a little more about you now? How about when you buy AC/DC off of iTunes?

    Wow Robert. You really had me going there….

    With regards to the latter? It’s be saying a hell of a lot about a person. AC/DC isn’t available on iTunes.
    :-)

  15. I don’t have a college degree

    Oh. I actually didn’t know that, yeah Google’s academia arrogance will kill them in the end.

  16. I don’t have a college degree

    Oh. I actually didn’t know that, yeah Google’s academia arrogance will kill them in the end.

  17. @16 “I live near Fort Lewis, which just announced that they will be doing monthly mass-services rather than individual services for dead soldiers, so great are the deaths (Fort Lewis alone lost 19 soldiers last month, and for what?).”

    While that makes a great story for the pacifists and appeasers, I think you may have spoken too soon..

    http://www.komoradio.com/news/local/7775872.html

  18. @16 “I live near Fort Lewis, which just announced that they will be doing monthly mass-services rather than individual services for dead soldiers, so great are the deaths (Fort Lewis alone lost 19 soldiers last month, and for what?).”

    While that makes a great story for the pacifists and appeasers, I think you may have spoken too soon..

    http://www.komoradio.com/news/local/7775872.html

  19. @9 “…when had it rescinded because they figured out he didn’t have a college degree.”

    Do you think MAYBE it was because Google had to figure it out that is offer got rescinded, and not the mere fact that he didn’t have a degree? Sounds like someone wasn’t completely honest with information on their resume if Google had to do some “figuring out”. I mean, shouldn’t it have been apparent from the beginning that he didn’t have a degree? Shouldn’t there have been documentation about that in his resume? (oh, that’s right. According to you no one screens based resumes anymore. They use blogs for screening. In which case there will be more dishonesty about one’s background) Now, maybe it is true they don’t hire people without degrees (which I guess would mean Bill Gates has no chance of getting hired at Google, right? Laughable at best), but from your description is sounds like either someone at Google didn’t to a thorough job of screening, which I find hard to believe if he went through enough interviews to get an offer; or someone wasn’t completely honest with about their background. I’m guessing the latter.

  20. @9 “…when had it rescinded because they figured out he didn’t have a college degree.”

    Do you think MAYBE it was because Google had to figure it out that is offer got rescinded, and not the mere fact that he didn’t have a degree? Sounds like someone wasn’t completely honest with information on their resume if Google had to do some “figuring out”. I mean, shouldn’t it have been apparent from the beginning that he didn’t have a degree? Shouldn’t there have been documentation about that in his resume? (oh, that’s right. According to you no one screens based resumes anymore. They use blogs for screening. In which case there will be more dishonesty about one’s background) Now, maybe it is true they don’t hire people without degrees (which I guess would mean Bill Gates has no chance of getting hired at Google, right? Laughable at best), but from your description is sounds like either someone at Google didn’t to a thorough job of screening, which I find hard to believe if he went through enough interviews to get an offer; or someone wasn’t completely honest with about their background. I’m guessing the latter.

  21. For the record, a spinoff of French France Telecom called Voila added street photography back in 2001. Paris was covered first, then a number of other French cities.

    Just saying…

  22. For the record, a spinoff of French France Telecom called Voila added street photography back in 2001. Paris was covered first, then a number of other French cities.

    Just saying…

  23. Interesting.

    Anything Google does these days tends to get more attention than anything Microsoft does, period. So I suppose that has its pros and cons.

    I’ll leave it at that for now, if only for lack of time…

  24. Interesting.

    Anything Google does these days tends to get more attention than anything Microsoft does, period. So I suppose that has its pros and cons.

    I’ll leave it at that for now, if only for lack of time…

  25. “The reason Microsoft didn’t get the complaints is that they actually cared enough to take the time and expense to preserve people’s privacy.”

    More like their images are so blurry, and the resolution so low that they don’t have to. Don’t confuse incompetence with caring.

  26. “The reason Microsoft didn’t get the complaints is that they actually cared enough to take the time and expense to preserve people’s privacy.”

    More like their images are so blurry, and the resolution so low that they don’t have to. Don’t confuse incompetence with caring.

  27. It is culture wars, plain and simple. Between technophobes and the digerati.

    Just like security hysteria destroyed a good thing (free, open WIFI hotspots), now these people are mindlessly calling for all sorts of ridiculous measures, like the guy above who wants to sue for taking a picture of his license plates. You gotta be kidding me.

    @Robert: “Mapquest still has most of the market.”

    In the US perhaps. Elsewhere, no one even knows who they are. All their audience is doing is hitting print on their site. No wonder it took them nearly two years to add draggable maps. Even so, their implementation is slow, and they don’t even have good zoom levels in the cities. They have been resting on their laurels too long, relying on the muscle memory of their audience alone, and will lose their number one spot within a year.

  28. It is culture wars, plain and simple. Between technophobes and the digerati.

    Just like security hysteria destroyed a good thing (free, open WIFI hotspots), now these people are mindlessly calling for all sorts of ridiculous measures, like the guy above who wants to sue for taking a picture of his license plates. You gotta be kidding me.

    @Robert: “Mapquest still has most of the market.”

    In the US perhaps. Elsewhere, no one even knows who they are. All their audience is doing is hitting print on their site. No wonder it took them nearly two years to add draggable maps. Even so, their implementation is slow, and they don’t even have good zoom levels in the cities. They have been resting on their laurels too long, relying on the muscle memory of their audience alone, and will lose their number one spot within a year.

  29. I’ll just add that the fact that, according to above posts, Microsoft actually took the time to scrub their photos to preserve people’s privacy, shows that Scoble was wrong when he complained that Google was getting complained about but not Microsoft. The reason Microsoft didn’t get the complaints is that they actually cared enough to take the time and expense to preserve people’s privacy.

    And yet we’re supposed to believe that Microsoft is the “evil” one?

    You know how you can tell that some racists are racists by the fact that they constantly say that they’re not a racist? Well, guess what you can tell about someone who constantly proclaims that he’s “not evil”.

  30. I’ll just add that the fact that, according to above posts, Microsoft actually took the time to scrub their photos to preserve people’s privacy, shows that Scoble was wrong when he complained that Google was getting complained about but not Microsoft. The reason Microsoft didn’t get the complaints is that they actually cared enough to take the time and expense to preserve people’s privacy.

    And yet we’re supposed to believe that Microsoft is the “evil” one?

    You know how you can tell that some racists are racists by the fact that they constantly say that they’re not a racist? Well, guess what you can tell about someone who constantly proclaims that he’s “not evil”.

  31. i do think you are over simplifying the issue with google. If you look at all the google properties (ad sense, analytics, search, desktop search, gmail and google payment ) and potential properties (double click) google will be able in a matter of month to know and predict your habits online. They may say they aggregate the data but if in the wrong hands it could spell trouble.

    Up to now they have had a do no evil policy, but i’m sorry, a mantra with no teeth from real laws doesn’t make me sound asleep.

    I know M$ use to be in this position and the tide is shifting to google. I believe though there is good cause for concern as we should all be pro-active in guarding our privacy or whatever is left of it.

  32. i do think you are over simplifying the issue with google. If you look at all the google properties (ad sense, analytics, search, desktop search, gmail and google payment ) and potential properties (double click) google will be able in a matter of month to know and predict your habits online. They may say they aggregate the data but if in the wrong hands it could spell trouble.

    Up to now they have had a do no evil policy, but i’m sorry, a mantra with no teeth from real laws doesn’t make me sound asleep.

    I know M$ use to be in this position and the tide is shifting to google. I believe though there is good cause for concern as we should all be pro-active in guarding our privacy or whatever is left of it.

  33. “And all this uproar about a Picture. Of. A. Cat.”

    Is your imagination so limited that you’re incapable of seeing that this is just an example of a greater problem? Let’s say I’m studying the history of Nazi Germany and the history of Communism, and Google photos “Mein Kamf” and “Commusist Manifesto” on my bookshelf. Or let’s say I have some porn mags or private marijuana plant in my home. Let’s say I’m coming out of the shower and hadn’t closed the shades to a window that I zipped past on my way to the bedroom. There are any number of things that I might not want photoed for all to see. Open your mind; this isn’t just about a frikin’ cat.

    Google apologists are really something else. They really don’t give a damn what Google does to them. They’ve actually have drunk the “Do no evil” kool-aid to the point where they accept the “Do no evil” PR as an axiom that can be used to prove that whatever Google does is NOT evil by definition.

    Hey, need to prove that an action of Google’s isn’t evil? That’s easy, just cite the “Do no evil” axiom, then add Q.E.D., and your done. Pathetic.

  34. “And all this uproar about a Picture. Of. A. Cat.”

    Is your imagination so limited that you’re incapable of seeing that this is just an example of a greater problem? Let’s say I’m studying the history of Nazi Germany and the history of Communism, and Google photos “Mein Kamf” and “Commusist Manifesto” on my bookshelf. Or let’s say I have some porn mags or private marijuana plant in my home. Let’s say I’m coming out of the shower and hadn’t closed the shades to a window that I zipped past on my way to the bedroom. There are any number of things that I might not want photoed for all to see. Open your mind; this isn’t just about a frikin’ cat.

    Google apologists are really something else. They really don’t give a damn what Google does to them. They’ve actually have drunk the “Do no evil” kool-aid to the point where they accept the “Do no evil” PR as an axiom that can be used to prove that whatever Google does is NOT evil by definition.

    Hey, need to prove that an action of Google’s isn’t evil? That’s easy, just cite the “Do no evil” axiom, then add Q.E.D., and your done. Pathetic.

  35. Beware of standing too close to the Koolaid of any flavor. Google can be just as brainwashing as Microsoft.

    The boundary stops right here when I decide that vendor has gone too far.

    You don’t decide that, I do.

  36. Beware of standing too close to the Koolaid of any flavor. Google can be just as brainwashing as Microsoft.

    The boundary stops right here when I decide that vendor has gone too far.

    You don’t decide that, I do.

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