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Google agrees to lower the camera 16 inches and blur license plates

Google has announced they plan to retake all Japanese photographs for its Street View service due to complaints from residents photographs were taken from a vantage point that was higher than most people’s fences around their homes. The photos were taken by a camera mounted on a stick attached to a roof of a car and according to company product manager Keiichi Kawai, Google Japan has agreed to lower the cameras. Google has also agreed to blur vehicle license plate images to address one of the other privacy complaints being leveled against the Google Street View service.

Kawai said Google’s decision to lower the cameras is designed to address concerns in Japan, where many neighborhoods are crowded and privacy is tightly guarded. According to CNET, the new photographs will be taken with a camera that is exactly 16 inches lower, and will be a costly and time consuming affair because Google has already photographed 12 Japanese cities including Tokyo and Osaka.

Google’s lowered camera is meant to prevent items such as people’s laundry hanging out to dry from being filmed. The lowered camera will most likely make no difference as almost everyone in Japan hangs their laundry outside to dry due to space constraints and the high humidity.

Japan Probe also has other examples of images captured by Google Street View where a lowered camera would not have made a difference. The images include a high school girl’s chest being touched, a homeless man collapsed on the street, and a couple entering a "love hotel".

Complaints about Google Street View were already beginning to surface late last year when a Japanese civilian group that includes lawyers and university professors asked Google to stop providing detailed street-level images of Japanese cities on the internet because it violates privacy rights.



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Typo/mistake
By PrinceGaz on 5/18/2009 10:47:10 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Google’s lowered camera is meant to prevent items such as people’s laundry hanging out to dry from being filmed. The lowered camera will most likely make no difference as almost everyone in Japan hangs their laundry outside to dry due to space constraints and the high humidity.


You say "almost everyone in Japan hangs their laundry outside to dry"
and continue "due to space constraints and the high humidity"

If there are space constraints, doesn't that mean there won't be room to hang it anywhere, and if the humidity is high, doesn't that also mean it would take a very long time to dry by being hung outside? The implication being that they dry their clothes in a tumble-dryer as that requires much less space, and the relative humidity of the air in it is reduced because that air is heated.

Was the sentence meant to read "The lowered camera will most likely make no difference as HARDLY ANYONE in Japan hangs their laundry outside to dry due to space constraints and the high humidity."




RE: Typo/mistake
By Chernobyl68 on 5/18/2009 10:56:27 AM , Rating: 2
yeah, that didn't make sense to me either.


RE: Typo/mistake
By maxcue on 5/18/2009 11:05:32 AM , Rating: 1
I've been to Japan and it is *very* crowded but friendly!), so it's true space is at a premium. A typical washer or dryer there is little bigger than one of our microwaves so it shouldn't be surprising they dry outside, like we used to, and it should be no surprise it's humid on an ISLAND, either....But I admire and give a high-5 to Google for going to the expense and effort of re-doing their Street Views of Japan. Good for them that they're swimming in money and can do so, but they're creating a valuable database that's free for the world to use and trying to be sensitive about it as best as is reasonable, too. Privacy has been an illusion for decades, (blames or congrats to *our* NSA and others for that) so just enjoy the fact that you can use the work of others so easily. If Google would make a fantastic OS that ran all Windows apps I'd buy it. At least it sounds like MS is coming *close* with the upcoming Win7. I just hope these hypercorporations don't duplicate databases and do make them publicly useful.


RE: Typo/mistake
By Alexstarfire on 5/18/2009 11:57:36 AM , Rating: 2
Space constraints being what is inside the walls of the building. Not sure if Tokyo is anything like Taipei, but when I was in Taipei the buildings were rather small and primarily built straight upwards. As such there really isn't much space inside these places to put items like a washer and drier, although I'm sure money plays a factor in Taiwan that may not in Japan. Anyway, because of the way buildings are built, and you can understand why since it's an island and land isn't abundant, that they usually run out of space to put things in the house. Granted that doesn't mean they couldn't, but it'd be very cramped. It'd be like putting 3-4 sofas in the same room. Sure, you can do it, but there are far better and more comfortable ways of seating people.


RE: Typo/mistake
By bissimo on 5/18/2009 2:05:37 PM , Rating: 2
Beyond concerns over limited living space, I believe that the reason most people don't have or use dryers in Japan (and lots of other countries) is the high comparative cost of electricity. Most dryers' heating elements are 5kw. That's more of an electrical draw than the whole rest of the house combined, excluding heating and A/C.


RE: Typo/mistake
By Alexstarfire on 5/19/2009 12:50:14 AM , Rating: 2
Which is why I said money may be an issue. I don't live there so I have no idea what the cost of it is or would be.


RE: Typo/mistake
By kstephen on 5/18/2009 4:35:12 PM , Rating: 2
Sentence could be worded better. Its humid everywhere and worst indoors especially during the rainy season or summer. If you want your clothes to have a chance at getting dry most people hang their stuff outside. The statement below wouldn't make sense to anybody living here.
quote:

"The lowered camera will most likely make no difference as HARDLY ANYONE in Japan hangs their laundry outside to dry due to space constraints and the high humidity."


Quote below isn't true either. There's typically not enough space to hang stuff in doors but a lot of residences have balconies that are meant for hanging clothes outside.

quote:
If there are space constraints, doesn't that mean there won't be room to hang it anywhere,


RE: Typo/mistake
By kenji4life on 5/19/2009 5:14:10 AM , Rating: 2
I live in Tokyo.

There are Dryers available, usually small in size.

There are also Washer/Dryer combos available, such as the one I have here in my apartment. The downside is that it takes 5 hours to dry. The upside is that it takes up a lot less energy, even in those 5 hours (compared to say 1 hour in my US dryer which is a HE model).

That being said, the Humidity makes it very difficult to dry your clothes both indoors and outdoors, but outdoors there is at least wind which will act as a natural dryer.

The humidity is a big problem for drying clothes here, because during the summer months (June-September especially), the humidity is so bad that it even takes a long time for clothes to dry outdoors. Also during rainy summer months it's too wet outside and too humid inside to dry clothes. It makes me really miss my brand new w/d back home.

In the winter months, there are a few odd days where the cool, dry breeze is sufficient. However most days we use the W/D combo. In the summer, we'll be forced to use the w/d combo as well as hanging outside, plus lots of fabric softener/fresheners. Because of the humidity, clothes take on a "sweaty" smell from taking too long to dry.

I may be in the market for a dehumidifier this summer to place next to the w/d so that it can dry faster and abort that annoying smell.

All that being said... I think its kind of silly that they have to retake all of the photos. Japanese people are very private, so I understand why, but lighten up, people. People here close their storm windows every night for even more privacy, even when the wind isn't blowing. I think a little more openness could do this country well. I really loved Holland where looking into neighbors homes was a normal and expected thing. Many homes there are always kept neat and tidy so that when people are walking by and look into their windows, the residents are not embarrassed by a mess.


RE: Typo/mistake
By jconan on 6/4/2009 1:06:01 AM , Rating: 2
It's even worse in Hong Kong. Where a condo is about the size of a studio size apartment in the US. Since it's humid on the islands a dehumidifier could dry clothes faster inside than by hanging clothes outside.


RE: Typo/mistake
By eddieroolz on 5/19/2009 4:27:33 PM , Rating: 2
Having lived in Japan for 10 years of my life, I can tell you that:

- Space is at a premium, both inside and outside, and
- it is humid there, and
- electricity will cost you an arm and a leg and a kidney to pay for if you use a dryer.


Fences and windows
By HostileEffect on 5/18/2009 9:56:50 AM , Rating: 3
I don't blame people for being ticked over their privacy being violated.
A privacy fence is supposed to provide some protection from eyes and camers not provide excuse to mount a camera on a stick and peep over from a high point. The fence is also not there for other people to peep over, if they can even manage to kick and heave their high heaviness over without a heartattack.




RE: Fences and windows
By xti on 5/18/2009 10:53:22 AM , Rating: 2
fences i agree with.

anything else, shut your blinds or don't be doing something you don't want on camera outside.


RE: Fences and windows
By tmouse on 5/18/2009 11:36:36 AM , Rating: 3
The thing I do not understand is the concern for privacy is well known there and the Japanese love their standards so fences are pretty similar, so why didn't Google Japan not set their cameras to a height that does not look over the fence in the first place? Just because corporate HQ says use a stick X inches high does not mean someone local at Google Japan should not have said something. I guess I can understand since in Japan one does not question the higher ups but someone just learned an expensive lesson.


RE: Fences and windows
By Alexstarfire on 5/18/2009 11:51:12 AM , Rating: 2
Because they probably think it's just as stupid as I do.Sure, you're not supposed to hold yourself up over the fence to be a peeping tom, but some people are going to be taller than said fence and most certainly those on the 2nd and upper stories on the adjacent building. Granted I don't know the exact setup, but fences are usually pretty standard. In those situations a fence just isn't going to help and said person being able to look over them is doing nothing wrong. The same applies for whoever took these photos for Google. They weren't doing this to spy on people. They just happened to catch some people doing things they may or may not have been supposed to be doing and/or some embarrassing acts. The thing is, they are still probably going to catch people doing things they probably aren't supposed to be doing. It's a city of tens of millions of people, talking about Tokyo, and is tens if not hundreds of square miles. The probability of NOT catching someone do something embarrassing is almost inconceivable.


RE: Fences and windows
By Zoomer on 5/18/2009 9:46:51 PM , Rating: 2
Optimal height to be able to capture an image and stitch it together with a minimum of captures.


RE: Fences and windows
By tmouse on 5/19/2009 7:25:37 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry but I disagree. As a company, with the possibility of incurring the legal and financial ramifications, the knowledge of local values should be taken into consideration. Else you pay as Google will do in this case. Keep in mind while your assumption is basically right "some" people will be able to see over the fence, a privacy fence is designed to obscure MOST people. While someone, who is tall can see over the fence (And here I agree they are not doing anything wrong "just looking")it is quite a different matter if they are taking pictures and posting them on the internet where EVERYONE can now see. Why is it necessary to "see" more on street views than one would see from a actual car? You would not get these types of views unless you were driving a monster truck. They already have the aerial views for orientation.


High Scool Girl
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 5/18/2009 8:58:53 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The images include a high school girl’s chest being touched


From the pics, it looks consensual and well within age boundaries ;-)




RE: High Scool Girl
By JohnnyCNote on 5/18/2009 9:09:21 AM , Rating: 1
There's a little more to it that just that:

quote:
. . . complaints from residents photographs were taken from a vantage point that was higher than most people’s fences around their homes. The photos were taken by a camera mounted on a stick attached to a roof of a car and according to company product manager Keiichi Kawai, Google Japan has agreed to lower the cameras. Google has also agreed to blur vehicle license plate images to address one of the other privacy complaints being leveled against the Google Street View service.


RE: High Scool Girl
By kattanna on 5/18/2009 1:53:09 PM , Rating: 2
it also appears whats really happening is that he is touching her wrist. if you look her arm is held up covering her front preventing him from "touching her chest"

heck.. from the pic for all we know she is showing him her bracelet.. or the time.. for that matter.


A PR Move
By DtTall on 5/18/2009 9:37:45 AM , Rating: 3
I feel like this issue is a lot like the issue people have with the paparazzi. Everybody says they are annoying but people still buy the magazines and still look at the pictures online and still click these ‘news’ stories on CNN.com.

This is the same thing. Everybody says that if the picture was taken from a public spot then it cannot be invasion of privacy but they don’t want someone sitting outside their house taking pictures through the windows or snapping shots when they are hot and sweaty working in the yard.

The bottom line is that while it is probably technically legal, regular people don’t like the pictures anymore than celebrities do (excluding the Paris’s of the world) and if Google took the stance of ignoring these claims it would just be a PR disaster.




RE: A PR Move
By Jalek on 5/18/2009 9:58:22 PM , Rating: 2
People don't particularly like Google archiving 18 months of search history based on IP addresses either but they don't do anything about that..

The similar database AOL sold that led to people being identified along with details of their personal lives should've caught some attention.

Nobody cared, except maybe the woman in Des Moines considering divorcing a deployed soldier and looking for property in some town in Alabama. The bank she used, prescription drugs she'd looked up, addresses.. all of that was there.

We already know Google's provided the CDC with search information by locale for people searching for flu symptoms.


Pointless
By Danger D on 5/18/2009 10:54:15 AM , Rating: 3
Will the people who made this “higher than a fence” argument be satisfied once that is remedied? No. It’s just another nitpick to burden Google and get them to go away. Google is stupid for complying. They’ll lose money and gain nothing from redoing their maps.

Incidentally, if there’s one city on earth where I actually would need a feature like street view in order to find out where the heck I’m going, it’s Tokyo. They have no discernable street addressing system. I swear to God, even the taxi drivers don’t know how to get around that town except to the major tourist attractions.




RE: Pointless
By Solandri on 5/18/2009 2:19:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
ncidentally, if there’s one city on earth where I actually would need a feature like street view in order to find out where the heck I’m going, it’s Tokyo. They have no discernable street addressing system

Asians name locations, not streets. If you've ever been to Boston, there are several major locations called "squares" with roads in between them. e.g. Harvard Square, Kendall Square, Central Square, etc. The road between Harvard and Central squares would be called "to Harvard Square" in one direction and "to Central Square" in the other. Same idea.


Uhh...
By acase on 5/18/2009 9:40:58 AM , Rating: 2
Crop?




RE: Uhh...
By Mojo the Monkey on 5/18/2009 3:52:20 PM , Rating: 2
I dont think you understand the problem. You want to have an image both below the fenceline and above it. Part of using google street view is being able to angle "up" and look around at the buildings.


Why bother?
By AntiM on 5/18/2009 9:39:22 AM , Rating: 2
No matter what Google does, there are still going to be complaints. I can't imagine that whatever profit they might potentially make would offset the cost; maybe I'm missing the point of this little project. Or maybe it's more lucrative than it seems to be?




Nope not a mistake
By kstephen on 5/18/2009 4:30:04 PM , Rating: 2
Sentence could be worded better. Its humid everywhere and worst indoors especially during the rainy season or summer. If you want your clothes to have a chance at getting dry most people hang their stuff outside. The statement below wouldn't make sense to anybody living here.

quote:

"The lowered camera will most likely make no difference as HARDLY ANYONE in Japan hangs their laundry outside to dry due to space constraints and the high humidity."
quote:


Quote below isn't true either. There's typically not enough space to hang stuff in doors but a lot of residences have balconies that are meant for hanging clothes outside.

quote:

If there are space constraints, doesn't that mean there won't be room to hang it anywhere,
quote:




They better do
By kontorotsui on 5/18/2009 7:30:26 PM , Rating: 2
They better do that.
I've been in Tokyo 2 weeks ago, 50% of the streetview pictures were old enough in a fast changing Tokyo that they represented places not there anymore!

I wonder what use would be to find a cut bra hanging from a window... when you get there it is going to be replaced by some sumo fighter panties!




Awww
By bodar on 5/18/2009 7:52:58 PM , Rating: 2
I was expecting it to be due to "lens cap malfunction".




Invasion of Privacy?
By foolsgambit11 on 5/18/2009 8:37:16 PM , Rating: 2
Really? Blurring license plates? Having license plates visible in photos of public places is decidedly not an invasion of privacy.

Even seeing over the fence is okay by me. When people on double-decker buses can see your yard, that's not a private space. I think people should differentiate between 'private' and 'secluded' in these contexts.




You've got it backwards
By mindless1 on 5/19/2009 4:47:29 AM , Rating: 2
People in Japan do not hang their laundry out "due to high humidity". If there is high humidity it makes all the more sense to use heated dryers instead, in high humidity clothes are more likely to mildew before they dry at all.

It seems something went wrong with the cutting and pasting of info on this article. They do it out of poverty and conservativism, as well as it being more conventional, more common and so more socially acceptable even if it is not something they want on google streetview. Put yourself in their shoes, would you want google showing pictures of your washing machine or dryer contents?




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