As I sit on my front porch writing this, I can surf on over to Google and see a bird’s eye (or, more accurately, a satellite’s eye) view of my house. If I then move on to Google’s StreetView I can actually see a street view of my home along with whatever - and whomever - is in front of it at the time. Indeed, there’s a decent possibility I’m in the picture, sitting on the same porch I’m on now.
Those photos are taken with little regard to the scenes thus captured, with some unintended consequences for those photographed. Indeed, there’s at least one site dedicated to surfing photos from Google’s various services which includes everything from nude sunbathers to a US Naval building which resembles a swastika.
The recent dismissal of Boring v. Google, the latest in a number of attempts to limit the right of Google to post photos of unsuspecting neighborhoods on the Internet, affirms Googles right to continue offering the service. The court in Boring relies on the general rule of privacy in the US - that the taking of images from a public place are not an “intrusion upon seclusion” of those depicted - reaffirmed that the increased availability of those images through the internet did not change that general principle.
Google does allow individual property owners to request that their properties be removed from StreetView, and faces and license plates are blurred before posting. Efforts to block StreetView in the UK under the UK’s stronger privacy laws have also failed to date, although challenges to StreetView continue throughout Europe.