Here are two items that speak to the evolving question of what is public and what should (perhaps) stay private.
The first is about Google’s continuing efforts to make everything (or as much as possible) available on line.
Google Maps already renders the world as a giant data base, with ordinary maps, astonishing satellite imagery, and layers of information applied over all that. As most of you already know, there’s also something called Street View. Depending on where you live, it renders a 360 degree, still-photo panoramic view of public spaces.
That’s been controversial, of course. On the one hand, the idea that your front yard, my front yard (heck, all front yards!) might soon be on record for anyone to see can create unease. On the other hand, it’s awfully handy! I can’t even count how many potential neighborhoods and properties I viewed this way as part of my own house hunt over the past few years.
In the U.S. at least, the press and individuals already have the right to explore public space, and take photos (or videos) almost at will. (There are exceptions, as with laws in some states that prohibit non-consensual recordings or video taping police and other officials, etc.)
But should that existing, general right (to see and use ‘public’ information) be any different when it’s put into world-wide access by corporations like Google?
Of course street view isn’t nearly enough. Now comes … trike view! As recounted in this CBC article:
After photographing cities around the world with its fleet of camera-mounted cars, Google is now deploying the tricycles to tackle locations otherwise inaccessible.
“Basically this gets us off the roads and onto trails, university campuses, hopefully theme parks, places like that, that let people experience and really get inside those places on Google Maps,” says Mike Pegg, a senior product marketing manager with Google.
“For people who are looking to plan a trip to Canada, tourists to Canada, people that live in a community, it gives people an opportunity to see what’s in that place,” adds Pegg.
With permission from owners, many of the trike routes will show privately owned spaces.
Is this stuff cool? For example, it allows one to virtually visit Stonehenge without springing for a plane ticket to England. (Go to Google Maps and enter this address: Stonehenge, Amesbury, Wiltshire SP4, United Kingdom. Explore.)
Or is it getting to be creepy?
And, as the really hot weather rolls in, how about this little-known fact: it’s legal to be topless in Ontario – be you male or female.
Ontario courts ruled on this 20 years ago as described in another article from the CBC:
When university student Gwen Jacobs removed her top to cool off on a sweltering summer day in July 1991, she unwittingly spearheaded a movement to give all women in Ontario the legal right to expose their breasts — though most still choose not to.
The ruling did not significantly change social norms here that I can see, but it was helpful in protecting the right to breastfeed in public.
Anyway, just thinking aloud about public rights and privacy rights.
Good luck staying cool this week, everyone!