Google Street View Raises Privacy Issues

This is a followup to my August 12th article in which I mentioned the Google Street View photos that have been taken all over the United States. I read today that Google has announced they plan to launch Street View in 20 German cities.  Seems that a LOT of the German people remember too well the “secret police surveillance” and are opting out.

     For those in eastern Germany, the secret police Stasi spied on every single aspect of private life and a well-known joke dating back to the years of communism runs like this: “Why, despite all the shortages, is toilet paper in eastern Germany two-ply? Because they have to send a copy of everything they do to Russia.”

Before that, the Hitler regime, tracking down Jewish people, communists and enemies of the state wherever they were living or hiding, was even more of a trauma.

So now that Google’s Street View wants to show images of German streets for everybody to see on the internet, politicians from all parties are up in arms against it.

I don’t see how a picture of the front of your house should cause you great alarm but maybe that’s because I haven’t lived through anything like the older Germans or those who were once a part of East Germany.

I’ll also compare this to our public records. Most of Europe’s landowners enjoy privacy. You can’t go into the local courthouse and view anyone else’s deed.

Not true in the good ole’ U.S.A. You can look at any public record – deeds, wills, divorces, marriages, taxes, etc.  Even our incorporation doesn’t shield us. Almost all states allow you to research the name of every owner or member of an incorporated company.

So, what does this mean to me? Well, it’s interesting. I haven’t thought about “privacy issues” related to land surveying before. I don’t mind someone having a picture of the front of my house or office. (In fact, the office picture probably helps me, as I said in the previous post.)

But, I have to admit that I’ve always thought that I’d rather have my records at the courthouse more private than they are now.

     So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community. – Sir William Blackstone (1783)