July 06, 2008

Moaning About Google Street View -- While Her Majesty's Eyes Are Everywhere

Greetings. Well, if there's one thing I've come to expect from the United Kingdom's Privacy International and its sometimes amusing leader Simon Davies, it's a sense of disproportion straight out of a bad LSD trip regarding some key privacy issues.

Not that Simon is always wrong. He's upset about Viacom's demand for YouTube log data. I agree that this is a matter of great concern.

But often PI seems to be largely engaged in an anti-Google agenda, and Simon's latest target seems to be the upcoming launch of Google Street View in the UK. Even with Google planning to obscure faces and license plates for local images there, Simon is setting deadlines for Google to respond to his queries and threatening complaints to the British Privacy Overlords -- well the "Information Commissioner" in any case. Various other observers in England have suggested that Street View would be entirely legal there, by the way.

I argue in favor of Google Street View -- I consider it a very useful service with acceptable privacy parameters as currently deployed.

But for PI to complain about Street View in Great Britain has all the hallmarks of a bad joke. The UK is utterly saturated with over four million highly-intrusive, real-time, live, and frequently abused (sometimes in the most inane ways) surveillance (CCTV) cameras under government control -- something like one camera for every fourteen people there. And according to most polls, the public over there overwhelmingly supports this Orwellian infrastructure, buying into the bogus claims that falsely attempt to portray the cameras as crime-busting super tools.

Privacy International is a vocal critic of the UK government camera surveillance system -- and that's to their credit. But when they waste their limited resources on harmless and reasonably implemented services like Street View -- which obviously pales to utter insignificance as an issue compared with government camera abuse -- they're letting their traditional bias against Google get the better of them again, and this can diminish PI's standing generally when it comes to other privacy-related matters as well.

With the UK government spying into every nook and cranny with their powerful and invasive camera systems, it's nonsensical to complain as Privacy International is doing about a useful service like Street View, which at least gives ordinary citizens a bit of photographic assistance while navigating their way amongst the cameras of Her Majesty's surveillance state.


Posted by Lauren at July 6, 2008 08:48 AM | Permalink
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