A BoingBoing reader is worried that Google is infringing on his privacy by taking pictures of his cat in a window in his house. In the United States, if you can see something from a public street you are allowed to take pictures of it. A lot of people don’t understand privacy law. I had one guy tell me once that he could keep me from taking pictures of him (he was in a public street). Now, I don’t recommend arguing with people, but he’s wrong.
If we’re going to protect our privacy, we need to understand where current law already is and where we need to write new laws. This isn’t one of them.
For more, look at the reactions of bloggers on TechMeme. “Creepy” says one headline. CNet asks for more examples of such “spying.” No, sorry, it’s not spying and it’s not creepy. If you can see it from a public street it’s not private and you should not expect ANY privacy.
These reactions demonstrate we need to have a new discussion of privacy in the industry, though. First we need to understand what privacy is and when we should expect it, and when we should be worried about infringements. We also need to understand the technology used here. One blogger seemed to think that this data is taken off of live cameras. It is not. It’s taken off of a truck driving around.
Hint: if you can see it from a public street it is NOT “private.” This is journalism law 101 folks. Geesh.