Who watches the Watchmen?

For some weeks its been rumoured that Google’s camera cars are here in Edinburgh for their Streetmap project, where the existing Google Maps will be supplemented by photos taken at street level. This has already caused complaints from civil liberties groups here and in the US as the teams photograph everything – people with their faces visible, cars with registration often visible, homes, schools, businesses. Google has so far pretty much shrugged this off the same way they shrug off allegations of collaborating with dictatorships such as China. Their only meagre response so far to a barrage of criticism is to say they will try and blur the faces of individuals visible on the photos. Given the number being taken I wonder if that will happen.

However it seems their staff are also hypocritical – when the Edinburgh Evening News photographer saw them prepping their camera cars in Edinburgh and snapped them for the paper they approached him and told him to stop or he would be sued. Since he was on public land and there is now law which gives Google staff the right to come to another country, parade around it taking pictures of everyone and everything they want while gagging the press from taking legitimate pictures for a legitimate story with legitimate public interest concerns they were clearly talking cobblers.

It would be interesting to see just what legal grounds they think they have to stop their picture being used that wouldn’t also apply to the pictures they are taking, and I think they would be on pretty treacherous ground.” Guy Herbert, No2ID.

yes, it would be…

Google has now said they have no problem with people taking pictures of their camera cars, but this seems to be at odds with their staff’s actions. Hypocritical? Surely not. I do hope I see one of these when I am out and about Edinburgh with my camera because I’d delight in taking a photo and sticking it all over Flickr and my blog. As was noted in the article this isn’t entirely disimilar to when large protests and demos are held and the police and other security try to video and photograph everyone taking part, even in peaceful, legitimate demonstations, but get rather antsy if those activists then take pictures of them in return.