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Submission + - Google accused of hearing government secrets (

zrq writes: The BBC are running a story entitled Google's Street View 'snoops' on Congress members where they report on accusations from Consumer Watchdog that the "Google Street View project may have collected personal information of members of Congress, including some involved in national security issues".

The accusations are based on a report from Consumer Watchdog that discovered a number of high profile politicians are running unsecured open wifi networks that may have been intercepted by a Google Street View car.

From the BBC's story : " Google's popular Street View project may have collected personal information of members of Congress, including some involved in national security issues. "

From the Consumer Watchdog site : "Rep. Jane Harman, D-CA, chair of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee and former member of the Intelligence Committee has at least one wireless network in her Washington, D.C., home that could have been breached by Google, Consumer Watchdog said.".

To me, this seems to be backwards, emphasising the wrong aspect of the report. As far as I know, they don't have any evidence that Google actually did intercept anything important. Rather, they seem to be accusing Google of being complicit by being in at a location where they could, potentially, have heard important information that shouldn't have been broadcast in the first place. Kind of like standing in the garden shouting secret information through a megaphone, and then arresting anyone who passes by because they might have heard you.

I would have thought that the important bit of the story should have been : "Research by Consumer Watchdog suggests that : Rep. Jane Harman, D-CA, chair of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee and former member of the Intelligence Committee, has an open home network that may be broadcasting sensitive information to anyone who passes by her house".

Comment Clear signs prohibiting photography (Score 1) 601

A lot of the problems are due to the ambiguity in the way the various laws apply, and a lack of clarity in the way these are explained to the public, the security guards and police officers. This is not the security guards fault; they were probably instructed to 'watch out for suspicious activity', without a clear definition of what constitutes 'suspicious activity'.

One way to solve this might be for the local authorities to make a public statement to the effect that "Photography is legal and accepted behavior in public places; unless there are clearly displayed signs that prohibit it".

The important part of that is "the clearly displayed signs" bit. If the owners of a building or transport system don't want people to take photographs, then they must display signs that indicate that photography is prohibited. Without clearly displayed signs stating that photography is prohibited, then threatening arrest for taking photographs would automatically be considered as harassment and unlawful arrest.

We might see an outbreak of 'photography prohibited' signs almost everywhere, but at least it makes it clear where we stand. However, I suspect that there are many places where the owners or authorities are happy for their security personnel to discourage photography on an individual basis, but would balk at the idea of stating their policy in public. Requiring them to state the ban publicly, with permanent signs, may make them re-asses their policy.

"Is the potential threat really worth the cost of putting up all the signs, damaging our public relations and intimidating our passengers / visitors ?"

Once it is clear what places do prohibit photography, then if we (the public) are unhappy with the prohibition or feel that it is unnecessary at that location, we can petition the owners or responsible authorities to remove the ban (small print in the law could require that the sign clearly state who is responsible for the ban).

We do the same for parking in big cities. The penalty in London for parking your car where you are not allowed to is being wheel clamped or towed away. But, in order for this to be legal, there must be clearly displayed signs that state that parking is prohibited at that location and what the penalty is.

At least this might help to clear up the current confusion.

Comment Re:Contributed images are not blurred (Score 1) 133

The problem with Google Street View is that they are _taking_ new pictures and making them public.

Yep, that was the reason people gave for objecting to Google StreetView, that Google were deliberately setting out to take new pictures and publish them in a system that made it easy to find images of a specific street.

My question is ... now that I know that Google will include 3rd party geo-tagged images in StreetView. What are the privacy implications of me (as a private citizen) deliberately setting out to take lots of pictures of a street, geo-tagging them and upload them to Flickr, with the intention of making them available for Google to publish in StreetView ?

If enough people contribute geo-tagged images (and many mobile phones do this by default now) over time the density of 3rd party images in some areas could provide more coverage than the original StreetView images. We would end up with complete coverage with high quality un-blurred images, and no single identifiable entity to which the privacy laws would apply to.

Would the privacy laws need to be re-written to force Google to blur 3rd party contributed images as well ? If so, would the blurred copy would be a derivative of the original image, making Google complicit in copyright violation ? (many images on Flicker are published under versions of the Creative Commons license that don't allow derivatives)

Comment Contributed images are not blurred (Score 1) 133

Ok, how does this change the privacy issues ?

If Google takes the images themselves they have to blur all the faces and number plates, but if they include user contributed images of the same scene they don't need to blur them ?

So .. if I (as a private citizen) take pictures of a street and upload them to Flickr with geo-tags, Google will use them un-blurred.

What if I (as a private citizen) mounted a camera on a car and took LOTS of pictures and uploaded them to Flickr with geo-tags, Google would be able to use them un-blurred ?

Is this a crowd sourced way to un-blur Google StreetView one street at a time ....

Comment Snooping in school (Score 1) 699

I think what this (different) school is doing is fantastic, and I applaud their efforts and achievements. However ... checkout what happens at 4:37 in the video.

How Google Saved A School

Yes, different school, and the students are in school at the time, but .... I'm not sure I like the idea of teaching kids to accept this level of surveillance as 'normal'.

Comment Re:Ridiculous law (Score 1) 751

I agree with you ... right up to this part :

but it certainly should bother any halfway attractive person on this planet who plans to take a flight.

In my experience healthy attractive people aren't that worried about people looking at them. It is the rest of us, those of us who are too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall who don't want people to see us naked. All of us who wear clothes, makeup, dentures, wigs and a whole range of fashion accessories in an effort to change how we look.

A lot of money goes into making us feel uncomfortable with what we actually look like. See and

Deploying this type of technology removes our control over how we look and gives the state (or private security personnel) the ability to examine us
stripped naked.

There are already people suggesting we should use this technology on public transport in our cites. See BBC news and BBC news.

Based on what has happend with CCTV, once this level of technology starts to be used at selected 'high risk' locations it won't be long before it becomes common place, deployed all over our cities, in banks, train stations, hotels and department stores.

How will this affect everyone who wears some form of prosthetic to change how they look or disguise something damaged or missing.

The CEO who wears a wig to hide a bald patch will know that the lads in the security office can see it too. The woman who has had a mastectomy will have to endure the security guards at the city train station seeing her scar.

And then the bad guys will figure out a way to hide explosives inside the body .... so we move up a level to full body xray scanners. Everyone who wears dentures or wigs, everyone who uses anything to change their appearance, all will be scanned, examined and scrutinised.

Are we ready for that ?

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