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Windows Live and Privacy 372

An anonymous reader writes "Today as we were biking around our neighborhood in a small city we saw a strange vehicle slowly driving around. It appeared to be an SUV, bristling with cameras mounted on the roof, and pointing just about every possible direction. The first time we saw it, all we could see was that it had a sign on the side, something about Windows. The second time we saw it, we stared at it so hard that the driver stopped and we had a chance to ask him what it was all about. He said he was driving around, filming streets, and that there were people doing this all over the world, and getting data from the air too. It was going to be available on the Web. I asked him if this was Microsoft's answer to Google Earth, and he indicated that it was. There seems to be very little about this on the Web, and I found no mention of Microsoft's collection of this sort of detailed street level data. The Windows site appears to be, although since I use a Mac it didn't work properly. I'm not sure I want my neighborhood viewable on the Web from ground level. And are they going to edit all the people out? I don't see how they could."
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Windows Live and Privacy

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:56PM (#17093192)
  • Why not? (Score:3, Funny)

    by xyankee ( 693587 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:56PM (#17093200)
    "And are they going to edit all the people out? I don't see how they could." Why couldn't they? It's amazing the things they can do with computers these days, you know...
    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dknj ( 441802 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:12PM (#17093346) Journal
      a9 maps used to do this. Interestingly enough, a9 maps no longer exists []. Though now they appear to be in bed with Live
    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Funny)

      by geobeck ( 924637 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @09:52PM (#17094534) Homepage

      "And are they going to edit all the people out? I don't see how they could." Why couldn't they? It's amazing the things they can do with computers these days, you know...

      They won't edit them out completely; they'll just replace them with better-looking people. How else are they going to compete with GE?

  • by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:57PM (#17093208)
    Yes, this has been going on for some months now. You don't see too much talking about this because:

    1) This is a project in MS lab that has been kind of limited

    2) People don't like to talk about MS making things better

    3) Soon yuu will see Google adding this feature as well. THEN, you will read about this and average Joe will tell you how Google innovates and MS catchs up [bg]

  • Agreement? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:57PM (#17093210) Homepage
    They don't need to edit anyone out. Just check your Windows EULA - it's in there right after the section concerning rights to your immortal soul.
    • > They don't need to edit anyone out. Just check your Windows EULA - it's in
      > there right after the section concerning rights to your immortal soul.

      I don't have a Microsoft Windows EULA, or any other sort of contractual agreement with Microsoft. Never have.
  • Driving directions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by baffled ( 1034554 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:58PM (#17093216)
    It could be useful to see a picture of all the turns when getting directions.
    • If you require a picture of all the available turns, then may I recommend looking through the glass area, which is carefully placed at the front of your cabin area in all our recent vehicles? This also has the value-added features of showing you where other vehicles and pedestrians are in real time, and of showing the junction layout in use today and not five years ago, both of which may assist your navigation. :-)

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:58PM (#17093218) Homepage Journal
    The government doesn't want you to know this, but here's the secret:

    When you're outside... people can see you.
    • People, as in the the people near you you can also see. Not people, as in billions of people across the earth.
    • by gooman ( 709147 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:10PM (#17093334) Journal
      Stay inside.

    • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:54PM (#17093742)
      When you're outside... people can see you.

      Yes, but except for certain special cases like news reporting on events of public interest, they can't take pictures in which you are recognizable and use them for commercial purposes without your express consent. Legal rights to "privacy" don't only apply to rights to prevent people from seeing you in the first instance.
      • by emcron ( 455054 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:10PM (#17093838)
        Um, no. If you're on a public street, it's fair game. What you're thinking of only applies to using someone's likeness or celebrity without consent to imply that a specific person is endorsing a product. You don't think that every local news station in the US has to compensate people milling about in the background of their news video, do you? If you're on public property you can take whatever pictures you want and commercialize them in nearly any fashion.
        • When filming (say, for an independent movie) you have to consider the impact of the filmed object in question. If you're panning a shot past a bunch of storefronts to indicate locale, then you're free to do so, because none of the buildings or people are the focus of the shot. If you include a storefront in a static shot, with visible logos, or a person, who will become more recognizable due to the nature of the shot, then you start talking permission slips.

          These rules do not apply to news, since the primar
          • by Reaperducer ( 871695 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @09:57PM (#17094560)
            I live in a neighborhood where five or six major motion pictures are filmed each year (Batman Begins, The Weatherman, The Break Up, etc...). Whenever the movie crews are shooting on the street they put up big signs on the sidewalks telling people that if they walk through they may end up in the background of a film and if they don't want to be, they should walk the other way until filming is over. The signs seem pretty standardized, so it appears that this has passed muster with lawyers somewhere.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Some of the legal/cultural regulations regarding photos and video of others is also interesting. In East Africa it is expected that you pay anyone included in your shot at the time of the photo. For example, I have some great video of a very young Maasai boy leading a herd of about 150 goats across the scrubland of northern Tanzania. I guess my tripod (and the tall pale guy behind it) was pretty conspicuous because he headed straight towards me, seeing me from about 300 meters out. He approached me very cur
      • by mr_matticus ( 928346 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:19PM (#17093902)
        The exceptions are bigger than you think. You're probably already photographed on the Internet on someone's birthday Flikr album from a restaurant, or maybe you're one of thousands of people filmed on open street scenes for motion pictures. They can use material which includes your likeness for any purpose, including commercial ones, so long as your likeness isn't part of that purpose.

        If I'm filming a tree lighting ceremony for the holidays and your face drifts into the frame, too bad for you. That video is still going in the film, because I have no idea who you are and your inclusion isn't even tangentially related to what I'm doing. Privacy laws only protect exploitation, not inclusion. In public, people and cameras can see you. If you don't like it, don't go out. Ever been on the big screen at a baseball game? Try complaining about that.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:59PM (#17093224) Homepage Journal
    Cry me a river dude, what makes you think you have the right not to be photographed in public? What makes you think you have the right to tell people they can't photograph your neighbourhood? This is a non-issue, and street level photography tied to satellite appears to be very useful. I have often looked up places I'm intending to go on Google Earth to get an idea of the geography of the location, now I can use street level photography to get some landmarks too. I'm surprised it hasn't been done already and just hope that Microsoft will be collecting data outside the US too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by grand_it ( 949276 )
      I'm surprised it hasn't been done already

      It _has_ been done already, and dismissed. Check out this story [] about an ideantical Amazon's A9 Maps [] feature.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *
        So, what you're saying is that one failed attempt is all we need? No-one should ever try again? Tell me, where can I go, right now, and get this kind of service? Oh, and maybe the reason why this failed the first time around had something to do with the technology (and average bandwidth of internet connection) available at the time? Maybe it had something to do with their marketing, or their choice of target audience (americans are not exactly the most early adopters) or maybe Amazon just thought this w
  • Well, forget it. Microsoft has never been much interested in security issues until after the fact.
  • Woe is me ! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfclavette ( 961511 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:01PM (#17093242)
    I was captured at some undisclosed moment by a camera. Someone who looks for me very hard might be able to see that I was in a public area 10 days ago even tough there's no way to search for anyone, very unlikely that they would recognize me, and I could always hide from the truck if I'm really paranoid. A stalker will stalk you. Not use this.
  • I'm not sure I want my neighborhood viewable on the Web from ground level. And are they going to edit all the people out? I don't see how they could.

    I would suggest then that you don't go out in public. And maybe you should buy up all the land around your neighborhood and make it private. Or maybe you could just wait for Google to show up and do the same thing, then you'd feel ok about it and think about how empowering it will be for you to be able to browse down to "virtual peeping tom" and see what's goin

  • Easy to do... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:03PM (#17093268)
    And are they going to edit all the people out? I don't see how they could.

    That kind of work is exactly what the 3rd-world "IT" shops excel at. It is a very simple task to describe, and very simple to determine if the work is done correctly. But it is very hard for a computer to do it completely automatically.
  • I'm not sure I want my neighborhood viewable on the Web from ground level. And are they going to edit all the people out?

    I wouldn't like it much either, but anything that's viewable from a public space is fair game to be videotaped & photographed.

    They could edit out most of the people, but they really have no obligation to do so.

    I just hope nobody's expensive car gets stolen because some thief is scounting to see what's in people's drive ways.

    • It's far easier for a thief to drive around a rich neighborhood and pick out a car then instead of looking them up in advance online. There's no guarantee that cars that are outside when the picture is taken will be there when the thief shows up. There's also no way to tell from this service if there will be people, other cars, or pets around.

      Besides, expensive cars are rarely stolen, since they're easy to trace. Common cars that are a few years old are targeted and stripped down for parts, which is much
      • There's no guarantee that cars that are outside when the picture is taken will be there when the thief shows up. There's also no way to tell from this service if there will be people, other cars, or pets around.

        That may be true, but it would help to reduce suspicion of casing an area by doing it online, and driving around a town like Duxbury or Hanover and seeing a Ferrari, Lambo, or Rolls in the driveway would indicate to a professional organized network that there is a large liklihood of there being a veh

  • by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:05PM (#17093286) Journal
    I worked for a company that photographed many buildings on the north side of chicago. We used it so that we could pull up photos of apartment buildings when condos went up for sale -- we could put ads online and in print without having to send a photographer out for a new photo.

    It's been years since I looked at it, but I used to use a web site that would show you pictures of buildings in paris -- I think it was a yellow pages type site. I had a reservation in a hotel, and used the web site to find out what my hotel looked like, both so I could decide about whether or not to stay there, and also so I'd be able to recognize it when I was walking through the streets. You could look at any specific building in town, and move up and down the street to see what was around it.

    I'm inclined to agree with the person who pointed out that people can see things that are outside anyway. At least this takes that public information and puts it into a usable form. If they want to put trucks in the street to take these photos, and if they want to put the fruit of that labor up on the web, more power to them.

    I just hope that their web app works with firefox and linux.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      I just hope that their web app works with firefox and linux.
      The one linked to in the summary does.
    • That would be Pages Jaunes [], which is pretty cool for things like finding a restaurant you once ate at, but can only remember what it looked like and approximately what street it was on. Also good for seeing what a place looked like when the pictures were taken (1998 to 1999 era). The site hasn't been much updated, it was a massive effort to take all those photos in the first place. Because French law doesn't allow publishing a photo where an individual can be identified without the persons express written p
    • My bet is that they will be doing a Major Real Estate Site. MS does not do things for one purpose. They always have several purposes in mind. Just as they have a travel and automobile site that were designed to compete with Yahoo and take business from the other majors. While I am opposed to MS, I say go git em. Right now, the realtors take WAY too much money. In colorado, the norm is 7% being paid out JUST to the realtor. By the time you are done with everything, you are close to 10%.
  • by scdeimos ( 632778 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:06PM (#17093292)
    Long exposures (>60 seconds) will remove most moving objects (cars, trucks, people).

    Or with computers, a series of short digital exposures which only keep the content "common" between the frames (moving objects will be in different parts of subsequent frames).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cow Jones ( 615566 )
      There is even a commercial package called Tourist Remover [] which uses multiple images of the same location to compose a result without artifacts from moving objects.
  • This is a fairly cool app but I wonder, given the amount of money involved in collecting all that data, why they didn't use gyrostabiliized cameras for the side views. It's weird seing buildings tipping sideways. Obviously another cost-cutting method was using front and rear cameras. But this leaves you "driving" toward oncoming traffic half the time. Still, once it becomes advanced enough and the speed-issues are solved, this could be a useful app.

    Imagine, say, a zillow-hybrid. A homebuyer could select the
  • by thc69 ( 98798 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:15PM (#17093378) Homepage Journal
    So, when do sightseeing blogs start to pop up, pointing out the rare frame where somebody is caught sunbathing nude?
  • by thewils ( 463314 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:20PM (#17093426) Journal
    Say honey, how come Dave's truck is parked in our driveway?
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:22PM (#17093444) Journal
    The Windows site appears to be [], although since I use a Mac it didn't work properly. I'm not sure I want my neighborhood viewable on the Web from ground level. And are they going to edit all the people out? I don't see how they could

    Well, it works in Firefox, so chances are it works on a Mac after all, just not on Safari, if that was the one you had problems with.
    And yes, the people captured seem to actually be left in.
  • Not exactly new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:24PM (#17093468)
    The State of California, for one, has been filming at street level for the last decade. Shots are used for court cases, reconstruction of roads when wiped out by mudslide, etc.'ve never taken a photo in your neighborhood and posted it on the 'net?

    The comment about it happening around the world is most likely crap... MS is already in enough trouble without sticking their neck in yet another noose.
  • I think that's rather cool to be honest.

    We've got satellite, we've got birds eye now from Live Local, and I reckon that the street level stuff is awesome - just the thing for driving directions. Imagine being able to send someone a bunch of shots showing where turnings are, landmarks etc. Neat stuff

    While I can understand the privacy aspects concern some, I was under the impression that when you're in public, you can pretty much be photographed by anyone regardless. Ok, so this is Microsoft, but how many t
  • The average North American is captured 26 times every day by a surveillance camera, whether operated by a business or government. In London, the rate is far higher given the huge amount of cameras. And yet people demand even more cameras in some misguided belief it makes them safer. So are you upset by the fact that Microsoft may have your image (or an image of a house) or the principle in general? Me thinks its more the former.
    • by aslate ( 675607 )
      According to a local advert (for cars of all things) the average person in the UK is captured on camera 400 times a day.
  • You're in "public." That term means that other people can take photos of you. Cope with it.

    Microsoft isn't doing anything wrong here, not by any stretch of the imagination. Besides, it's not like you can search-by-face or something ridiculous like that... what information are you afraid will get out?
  • That's not all! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:37PM (#17093584)
    If you go to google maps, and choose the satellite view, and go to my road, you can totally see my car in my driveway!!!

    I mean, how dare they?! Taking a photo of something in a public place*, right out in the open, then putting it on the web! I should sue!!!

    (* Note to pedants - no, my driveway isn't public, but it's open to the street and plainly visible from the pavement)

    Privacy concerns? Don't make me laugh. If they start sending people into private buildings with cameras, get back to me. In the meantime, kdawson, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for allowing such a spin to be put on this story.
  • The real question is, have you been able to see yourself yet in the preview web site? That would be a real trip!

    :watches thinkgeek t-shirt sales fly through the roof:

  • by kherr ( 602366 ) <> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:41PM (#17093622) Homepage
    I used to work in the public safety industry and at trade shows at least five years ago companies started showing up, hawking exactly this. The sales pitch was that they'd drive these vans around to take street-level photos of the city so the fire or police departments could have these views when dispatching to a call. Kind of silly use of the technology back then, not sure how successful the companies were.

    It seems maybe these companies might have sold Microsoft on the idea. Perhaps there were a whole bunch of data capture vans and no customer base. In the age of Google Earth and MSN Virtual Earth maybe spending money collecting these images are worthwhile. Or maybe just a waste of Microsoft's money.
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:43PM (#17093628)
    A3 (Amazon's search engine) has had street level photographs for a couple of years now. It is possible to enter an address by zip code and then see the picture of that address as it looks from the side of moving vehicle. It's interesting and useful that MS might also do it, but it isn't new or original.
  • by twistah ( 194990 )
    Amazon had something very similiar in A9 Maps. You could view either side of most streets in major cities. They also had a program where you would sign up and, given the name of a business and a few pictures, pick one out that best represented the storefront. You could see where they were going with this.

    However, I just checked on it and it's discontinued. This is strange, considering the immense amount of effort this must have taken. I wonder if Microsoft didn't buy their data? If not, someone must have a
  • I'm definitely not a lawyer, but when you're wandering around outdoors I'm pretty sure you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Unless they figure out a way to drive those vans into our restrooms, I don't see it as a huge problem.

    That being said, I think it's a gimmicky piece of crap, and honestly I can't foresee it being useful for anything Google Earth can't already do better. Yes, yes, I know, that makes me sound like a Google fanboy. But to me, it really looks like Microsoft is trying to steal m
    • Agree wholeheartedly that public space = not private. I can only conclude that the presence of MS means the story takes a 'privacy' angle. If it were Google doing this, no doubt it would be hailed as a killer app, the next big thing to come from the Mountain View wunderkinds.
      • "If it were Google doing this, no doubt it would be hailed as a killer app, the next big thing to come from the Mountain View wunderkinds."

        Speak for yourself. If Google put their name on something like that, I'd be scratching my head even harder about how badly-implemented it is. With Microsoft, crappy products simply have less shock value.
  • If you look in store windows (SW corner of 3rd and Stewart, for example) you can see the reflection of the van. Just looks like your average suspicious white van.
  • They have every right to take pictures along the road. Its the law as long as they aren't on any private roads. Plus, I can't see any problems between this and google earth. Google Earth has done the same thing. hows-topless-sunbather.html []
  • I asked him if this was Microsoft's answer to Google Earth, and he indicated that it was. There seems to be very little about this on the Web, and I found no mention of Microsoft's collection of this sort of detailed street level data.

    Whaaa? I hear about this on the news over a week ago, and even saw a demo of the software navigating a few of the largest cities... Remember, this is mainstream, national, news, where it takes them 6 months to mention new computer viruses.

    This nefarious activity you're so co

  • As has been covered extensively here, photographing people in public is not a big deal -- if you can see it legally, you can publish a picture of what you saw, within some limits. Does anybody believe that the paparazzi got a release for all the Paris Hilton stone-cold drunk pictures that prove she doesn't wear underwear?

    The more interesting question for me is what happens when they take a picture of ART, or something that is the proper subject matter of copyright. If I recall correctly, there was a large
  • Full moon (Score:2, Funny)

    by Chayak ( 925733 )
    They better be careful what streets they drive down or they may get a shot of multiple full moons with little penguins painted on them...
  • Uh, this is pretty awesome, but I don't understand how I can drive the wrong way down an apparently one way street....BETWEEN BUSES.

    How the hell did they pull that one off?
  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:26PM (#17093954)
    It would seem that beyond the fairly primitive display and interpolation of the software currently being presented, the real gold from all these photos would be to start running them through a motion flow algorithm and 3d tracking algorithm to start generating geometry.

    I think people are right in saying that this had somewhat limited applicable use, but the more raw data you have on an area, the more references you can feed into new technologies. Sure this data might not be useful now, but let's say Microsoft then proceeds to do a lidar scan of the entire city. Combined with this data, you have one more data set to use for comparison. Increase sample size, decrease margin of error.

    It's much like a web crawler, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Amazon are all in an arms race to know more about the world than anyone else, because the more you know, the more accurate you can be. I like the new 3d photo technology microsoft was showcasing earlier of I think the bassilica, start combining that with lidar and you have an automatic mapping/3d modelling application. The more photos you take, less likely a person will be in front of it.
  • by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:43PM (#17094070)
    Are people really this out of touch with news?

    Microsoft started taking street and air shapshots of cities over a year ago, it was part of their demonstration even over a year ago.

    And now this Mac user is surprised? WTF. This isn't an 'answer' to Google BTW, MS was working on this technology before Google was even a glimmer in the eye of the geeks that created it. Go look up terra server, and when MS first put this up as a demonstration of how MS-SQL could easily handle terrabytes of data.

    As for the street and air level snapshots, these TOO are ALREADY in use. Microsoft 3D earth uses the 'textures' of the buildings in the 3D models they have of several major cities already.

    Additionally, the 'angle' view was introduced on MS Virtual Earth over a year ago, with multi-angle views of cities from airplane shots that complimented the satelitte images.

    Is everyone this out of touch with technology and news, and if so, are the editors of Slashdot becoming out of date old timers as well? No wonder people are shocked to find out that Windows doesn't run on a DOS architecture nor crash every 5 mins if this is their idea of breaking news.

    Talk about slow news day... OMFG.
  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @10:07PM (#17094620) Homepage Journal
    A variant of moore's law applies here I think, where the amount of information available goes up at a geometric rate just like processor speed and memory requirements. Ten years ago we would have laughed at someone that said we could get 15ft resultion sat pictures of most anywhere in 10 seconds, but we have had that for what, four years now. What's next? In 20 years will I be getting calls from the local contractor advising me that I need my shingles replaced because they're starting to crack?

  • Ok. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Perseid ( 660451 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:20AM (#17095386)
    So if I see a truck driving around taking pictures I will try to look as sexy as I can. So if you see the fat computer nerd trying to look sexy in the next beta of this thing - that was me.

Anyone who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as the strawberries, knows nothing about grapes. -- Philippus Paracelsus