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Aftermath of an auto accident caught by a Google Street View camera car  (Source: Google)
After receiving complaints regarding certain offensive images, Google has removed some of their Street View photos.

Although Google’s Street View service began with a great deal of publicity, complaints regarding certain offensive images have forced the organization to remove some photos.
Dozens of images have already been taken out of the UK Street View collection. It is thought the pictures removed contained revealing images of homes, a man entering a London sex shop, people being arrested and a man being sick.

One Google spokesperson explained that anyone who asks could have their images removed.

As for those photos that already have been deleted, Google’s Laura Scott said, "We've got millions of images, so the percentage removed was very small...We want this to be a useful tool, and it's people's right to have their image removed." 

"The fact there are now gaps [in Street View] shows how responsive we are," Scott added.

Street View is now available in a total of nine countries. It first began in the U.S. in May 2007 and since has spread to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain and Italy. On Thursday, it was additionally launched in the Netherlands.

Imagery available through the service is taken along streets by customized camera cars. Camera cars in the UK, for example, have enabled their version to consist of 22,369 miles of UK streets and to include street scenes in 25 UK cities, from Aberdeen to Southampton. Some people, have managed to find themselves somewhere in the imagery containing these miles of streets. 

People have also managed to find ways to view the removed offensive photos by moving up or down a notch on the street. A black image with the message "This image is no longer available" has replaced each offensive photo, but apparently this does not provide blockage at all different angles.

Dr. Ian Brown, a privacy expert at the Oxford Internet Institute, was not surprised that there were some offensive photos: "This is exactly what you would expect from a service that relies on individuals to help Google not make mistakes." 

"They [Google] should have thought more carefully about how they designed the service to avoid exactly this sort of thing," Brown added.  

Dr. Brown also said that Google could have taken images twice, on different days. This way, any offending images could have been easily replaced and could have also protected privacy better.

Google assures it has gone to great lengths to ensure privacy. Its face recognition technology, for example, blurs all faces and registration plates captured by the camera cars. Last year, the Information Commissioner’s office ruled that this blurring was sufficient in ensuring that privacy was upheld.

Google also says Street View only displays imagery that is already visible from public thoroughfares.

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By sapster86 on 3/23/2009 9:25:04 AM , Rating: 5
Dr. Brown also said that Google could have taken images twice, on different days. This way, any offending images could have been easily replaced and could have also protected privacy better.

How much does Dr. Brown think this would cost? Not forgetting the time to re-capture these images!

RE: ?
By Moishe on 3/23/2009 9:42:33 AM , Rating: 3
The problem is that he isn't thinking. Privacy is like anything else, we need it and there should be some expectation of privacy in certain areas, but in the street, you should not be able to object to your image being taken. Public is *public* and it's the responsibility of the individual to behave within society's rules when in public.

RE: ?
By ElementZero on 3/23/2009 9:53:44 AM , Rating: 2
What a moron. Surely those camera take pictures with either a timer or something that is hooked into the mileage of the car (or it counts mileage itself). That being said, being able to get the EXACT frame of the picture as the previous one would be impossible.

RE: ?
By sapster86 on 3/23/2009 10:04:44 AM , Rating: 3
I'm guessing the system works in a similar way to aerial survey data capture, there will be predetermined data capture points along the route (that insure there is an overlap both forwards and to the side so a seamless route can be created) and the onboard GPS that geotags each photo will also be use to tell the computer to take the photos at these predetermined points.

RE: ?
By Triple Omega on 3/23/2009 10:16:22 AM , Rating: 3
But what is public? If my picture isn't being taken the only people that can see me are the ones that are around me at that moment. If I act accordingly I could put myself into a situation that I would be comfortable with only with those people. If at that moment a camera-car drives by and takes my picture, suddenly the rules have changed and hundreds of millions of people could possibly see me in that situation.

So there is no one definition of public, it all depends on the situation. And as long as people don't want everyone to know everything about them there will be "public" situations that they will want to keep between them and the people around at that moment.

RE: ?
By Moishe on 3/23/2009 10:39:36 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that there are different idea of public, but you are walking on the street in plain view. Someone takes a pic of you... is that fine? Is it fine if that image is posted online? Is it the odds of a million people seeing you?

Lets face it, if you don't want to be seen, stay indoors or wear a hood. Don't burden others with preemptively protecting your privacy, protect your own preemptively and accept it when you haven't done that well enough.

RE: ?
By Triple Omega on 3/23/2009 11:15:40 AM , Rating: 2
Thats not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about being seen, but being seen in certain situations.

For example, an American going to the Netherlands on holiday might not want to be seen by other Americans smoking marijuana for fear of making the wrong impression. He or she would however be fine with the locals seeing it as they find it normal and they don't know them.

There are also plenty of situations imaginable where a picture could easily be wrongfully interpreted as it is just a snapshot of a moment in time and often without context.

It's like talking on the phone in a café. You might not care that the people around you can hear what your saying as you don't know them and they don't know you. You wouldn't want it to be taped and posted on the internet however as people that DO know you might hear it.

RE: ?
By PlasmaBomb on 3/23/2009 11:39:01 AM , Rating: 2
'Fraid of the wife finding out about the affair Omega?

RE: ?
By artemicion on 3/23/2009 12:19:06 PM , Rating: 2
Gonna have to agree with Omega, I don't think 'privacy' is as simple as a binary condition that depends on broad categories of areas that are considered 'private' and 'public'.

I have varying degrees of the level of privacy I expect both indoors and outdoors. If I have a ground-level apartment on a busy street with a lot of pedestrians, I'm not going to sit naked next to an open window and expecting privacy. Similarly, if I'm driving down a remote highway and pull over to take a piss, I wouldn't expect somebody to pop out with a camera just because I'm in 'public'.

I think privacy is more properly analyzed as thinking about what a reasonable person expects in a given situation. I think the street-view scenario presents a case that is both novel and borderline, as I suspect that, despite the proliferation of image-recording devices out there, many people don't expect their picture to be taken on the street at random points in the day. Even less people would expect that picture to be disseminated to the public at large on the internet. Technologically, we're probably at a turning point as cheaper and more sophisticated surveilance equipment gets out in the public, people will adapt and start buying their illicit goodies on the internet.

RE: ?
By LRonaldHubbs on 3/23/2009 2:54:03 PM , Rating: 2
You're missing the point to the same degree as Omega did. You can think whatever you want about what *should* be private, but it comes down to a matter of practicality. Everyone has their own ideas of what they would like to remain private, but there's no way to account for what every single person wants. It's much easier to just say that private property stays private and public property anything goes (within reason, of course). What has traditionally been protected in court is a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the expectation of privacy in a public place is anything but reasonable. It really is that simple.

Also, public unrination is illegal, so you shouldn't be pissing by the side of the highway anyway. Not saying I haven't done it, just saying, you aren't entitled to privacy in a public place, much less during the comission of a crime.

RE: ?
By Oregonian2 on 3/24/2009 12:50:05 PM , Rating: 2
Also, public unrination is illegal, so you shouldn't be pissing by the side of the highway anyway. Not saying I haven't done it, just saying, you aren't entitled to privacy in a public place, much less during the comission of a crime.

Dogs must put put in the slammer a LOT in your neck of the woods. :-)

RE: ?
By jRaskell on 3/23/09, Rating: 0
RE: ?
By LRonaldHubbs on 3/23/2009 11:41:34 AM , Rating: 2
Your argument is tangential to this discussion because you are using 'public' in a different context. Public when talking about roads simply means not privately owned -- owned by the state, paid for by citizens through government. 'Reasonable expectation of privacy' is the wording commonly used to describe the protection citizens have within the confines of their own property (in house, car, etc). However, the expectation of privacy is not reasonable in public space and therefore is generally not protected. If you put yourself into an undesirable situation while in public, too bad.

RE: ?
By afkrotch on 3/23/2009 8:42:00 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that he isn't thinking. Privacy is like anything else, we need it and there should be some expectation of privacy in certain areas, but in the street, you should not be able to object to your image being taken. Public is *public* and it's the responsibility of the individual to behave within society's rules when in public.

How about the times when the Google van decides to drive up a private driveway or community and starts snapping pictures.

RE: ?
By Pryde on 3/24/2009 1:02:46 AM , Rating: 2
Most Private Roads/Driveways in my area are not clearly marked, when I started my job working for the local Council Roading Company I had to learn where all these were and there was a surprising amount of unmarked Private Roads that we do not care for. It is easy to see how the google drivers can be mistaken.

If you have any complaint that the google van has taken pictures from private property they are more than happy to remove the images

RE: ?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/26/2009 8:06:44 AM , Rating: 2
That is true that anything in plain view does not rise to the level of reasonable expectation of privacy for purposes of 4th amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. However, this is a private company trying to stay in business by accommodating the wishes of its users and advertisers. So it can either make the decision to stay in business by complying where it is not too difficult, as here, or it can stand firm, and go out of business, where even the fruits of victory, will be as ashes in (its) mouth.

RE: ?
By JazzMang on 3/23/2009 10:47:02 AM , Rating: 3
Martyyyy! We have to go back to the future!

Ontario Canada
By SpaceJumper on 3/23/2009 9:44:16 AM , Rating: 3
It is perfectly legal for any woman to walk on the street topless in Ontario Canada. Should the Street View blur that too?

RE: Ontario Canada
By Machinegear on 3/23/2009 10:11:31 AM , Rating: 5

That my friend, should be encouraged.

RE: Ontario Canada
By Moishe on 3/23/2009 10:40:41 AM , Rating: 2
They should not.

RE: Ontario Canada
By acase on 3/23/2009 12:08:10 PM , Rating: 3
This is the first cool thing I have ever heard about Canada.

RE: Ontario Canada
By Motoman on 3/23/2009 12:11:17 PM , Rating: 4
They can also legally do that in NYC. Just wait for the first of those photos to show up and cause a jihad someplace.

Google should take the viewpoint, in those kinds of cases, that you are essentially visiting a foreign country, and are therefore experiencing their laws and moral codes. Therefore, if you want to make sure you don't see any topless women, don't use StreetView to look in Canada, NYC, Australia, or other such places.

To me, I am vastly more offended by Muslim countries that force their women to be covered head-to-toe in even blistering heat. But I can just not go there in StreetView.

If a Muslim were to visit an Australian beach, or NYC, or Toronto, and see a topless woman and it offended him, too bad. It's legal and the fact that you are offended by it is your problem. Your only recourse is to not go there. The same should be true for StreetView.

RE: Ontario Canada
By artemicion on 3/23/09, Rating: -1
RE: Ontario Canada
By Sagath on 3/23/2009 1:02:12 PM , Rating: 4
Using an example of a culture is not 'singling out', nor is it racist. It is an example. He even says "To me" in front of his statement.

Generalities cause far more harm then an example. Would you find someone stating all Muslims are Terrorists better associated with a context of all cultures find certain aspects of life "offensive"? Neither are correct, according to your viewpoint, nor according to mine.

Maybe the OP isnt even American, what if he is Muslim, and finds the same Muslim culture offensive to him, his mother and his sister?

And again, he says nowhere that he finds it offensive about nudity in the Muslim religion, just that he personally doesnt agree with making them wear Burkas and being covered head to toe. Hardly a racist view. Definitely a personal one.

Relax, Chief. Much as you have your over-the-top opinion, in this country, you are both entitled to them. But try thinking outside the box. Not everyone is out to get you, or the Muslims ;)

RE: Ontario Canada
By LRonaldHubbs on 3/23/2009 3:09:12 PM , Rating: 4
You sir, need to chill out. He used an example to demonstate his point, and clearly it was an effective one.

Cultures in general need to get over themselves and be more tolerant of each other; I agree with Motoman 100% on that. The reason it's relevant here is because someone asked about censoring boobs. It was an obvious step to assume which culture might be most offended by said boobs, so his example makes sense.

And regarding the Super Bowl incident...I am not offended by boobs, but I am offended by Janet Jackson. Her boob wasn't even nice to look at.

RE: Ontario Canada
By Sagath on 3/23/2009 12:36:21 PM , Rating: 2
God, I wish I could +10 you. Spot on.

Without sparking a 'moral' vs 'ethical' debate, the simple fact is Public and private have varying levels, depending on Cultural and Religious systems.

Short and sweet; If you don't like the way some country is doing something, that's YOUR problem. Not the rest of the worlds. Nor is it a reason to change their way of life, no matter how 'wrong' YOU believe it to be.

See Iraq, Russia, Israel et al. People need to learn to let other countries/cultures learn.

We (I'm speaking about the 1st world here) all had our problems developing, and some countries take longer then others. Let them be, they'll get there...eventually.

RE: Ontario Canada
By dever on 3/23/2009 3:36:45 PM , Rating: 2
I want to agree with you... but in trying to judge the validity of your post I have to test the extremes. I think the OP was pointing to a certain behavior that he saw as repressive of an individual's rights.

I'm assuming there is a line that, if crossed, would change your mind on this matter. For example, what if all people in another country with green eyes, male or female had to wear burkas in public? What if those same people were forbidden to drive, or vote, or hold office, or teach, etc, etc, etc... all against their will?

You might still say... "respect their culture." But, what if people with green eyes were regularly beaten or killed for minor offenses in much higher proportion to the rest of the population? Still "respect their culture?"

What if people with green eyes in another country were forced into labor by the government? What if they were gassed?

Have I passed the line yet? At what point do we stop "respecting the culture?" I don't know the answer, but it seems that some things are hard to ignore.

Slightly tangential:

Favorite quote near the end is the Onion making fun of the obvious arrogance of the statement "we don't want to rob them of their culture."

RE: Ontario Canada
By Sagath on 3/23/2009 5:55:01 PM , Rating: 2
If we are just debating, all feelings aside, the answer I would give you is thus:

You cant interfere. You MUST let the society/culture/religion (in all cases the people IN the culture!!!) intervene.

As bad as it was/is/could be, humans on a basic level know what is right from wrong, and just like so many past atrocities, eventually we overcome said adversity's and become stronger as a race.

This is why every country (and its own containing micro-culture) has its revolutions, uprisings and social breakdowns. The United States (North vs South) , France (Parisian Revolution), North/South Korea, and even Canada (French/English/US battles) to an extent have all had hard fought battles over the basic "Quality of Life" that we now take for granted. How quickly we forget...

Do terrible things happen on the way to that 'better place'? Hell yes. But, in my opinion, worse things happen when you try to 'help' (impose) other cultures/countries with your 'right' beliefs. Again, look at Russia, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, on and on.

You jump on someone and say "This is the way!" and they will just resist said way even more.

The old adage applies: "Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will never be hungry again." So too, does this apply for Cultures.

RE: Ontario Canada
By dever on 3/23/2009 6:56:13 PM , Rating: 2
I think I might just have to agree. And, if by intervention we are referring to outside government intervention, then I do agree.

With almost everything involving government, the unintended consequences are most often worse than whatever problem is trying to be resolved.

RE: Ontario Canada
By JS on 3/24/2009 8:09:22 AM , Rating: 2
I don't agree. There are instances when there is a moral imperative to intervene. Like in Rwanda, where almost a million men, women and children were hacked to death with machetes over the course of a couple of months.

It was wrong NOT to stop that. Saddam's treatment of his people in Iraq comes off as nice and cozy in comparison. The holocaust would be an obvious other example.

I get your reasoning and it makes sense, but there are situations when the cost in human suffering is too great to just say "let them sort it out themselves".

RE: Ontario Canada
By Oregonian2 on 3/24/2009 1:05:01 PM , Rating: 2
What if that other culture has within it a drive to have you killed? All cultures other than their own must be exterminated ? Is one to still honor that other culture?

When the U.S. was part of Britain prior to 1776 thereabouts, our "internal british" revolution was helped by the French. I'm glad they did.

By meepstone on 3/23/2009 10:58:27 AM , Rating: 2
Dr. Brown also said that Google could have taken images twice, on different days. This way, any offending images could have been easily replaced and could have also protected privacy better.

Protect what privacy? these are taken from a public street. this guy needs a clue.

RE: right...
By madmuffin on 3/23/2009 11:44:33 AM , Rating: 2
In the UK you can legal take a photo/video in public with out permission! Google has made a fab program and theres only a few people who mone! If i wanted to break into a house (Which i would never do mind) i could just take a walk down it. What does is matter if theres street view or not? Just jobsworths thats all they are!

RE: right...
By nixoofta on 3/23/2009 1:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
...drugs are bad,...UnKay

RE: right...
By Aloonatic on 3/24/2009 9:09:56 AM , Rating: 2
You should try going to a shopping centre, a police station or an army base and see what happens when you try to take photos of buildings.

At best you will be asked to move along and delete/destroy the photos that you've taken. I'm not sure on the legality of this but I wouldn't want to go causing trouble in the post 9/11 world where "gathering information that may be of use to terrorists" is enough to get you bang up.

I won't encourage you to go to a public park and start taking photos though. If you don't find yourself arrested and on a register, you'll probably be accosted by gangs of mothers and beaten to within an inch of your life.

By NewBro on 3/23/2009 8:58:53 PM , Rating: 2
So when is this coming to Hong Kong? I wanna see myself walking on the street like there's something wrong with it damn it!

By Oregonian2 on 3/24/2009 1:16:11 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, as much as some complain, the street view feature is something I've found extraordinarily useful and awesome, particularly when I'll be going somewhere "new" -- I can start with the satellite view then drop down to street level to have "been there before" before going there the first time.

those who are concerned about privacy...
By Beavermatic on 3/24/2009 12:44:43 AM , Rating: 2
...have something to hide, or are doing something they shouldn't.

If your doing nothing wrong, then there should be no need to worry about privacy, cameras, etc....

By Aloonatic on 3/24/2009 9:14:33 AM , Rating: 2
Please post all you family photos, bank statement, e-mails, letters etc etc etc. If you have nothing to hide afterall, then what's your problem?

I have no real reason for wanting to see them of course, but still, the point stands. If you refuse then perhaps you've been writing love letters to Osama Bin-Ladin and your bank statements show donations to Al-Quida? To be on the safe side, get in the van, just in case.

Or is there are line where you think that you have something to hide/protect that is more important than the next man's? It's not about hiding anything, it's about being able to protect what is yours.

Censor View?
By SpaceJumper on 3/23/2009 9:39:53 AM , Rating: 1
Google should call it CensorView instead.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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