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?