If it’s out there, do you want to see it?

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!

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9 Comments on “If it’s out there, do you want to see it?”

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  1. Hank says:

    I can hardly wait for Google to map all the portages in my favourite provincial park. Can you imagine how exciting it would be to see what mud-hole or rock cliff you will be carrying your canoe over before you actually get there! I hope the resolution will be high enough so I’ll be able to see where the poison ivy is too.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Sometimes the best way to remain private is to totally reject privacy. If you make everything public, nudity too, you create a forest and it becomes difficult to zero in on one tree in the forest.
    As to women going topless, I have always thought it only fair if men are allowed to go topless.
    More and more information online means less and less of a chance anything will be found. I’m reminded of the movie Raiders of the Lost Arc where the Arc ends up in a huge warehouse with tons of other stuff, probably never to be seen again.

  3. Mervel says:

    The problem is Pete once its out there you can’t retract it, you no longer own your own information once it goes digital and enters the web or the cloud or whatever the heck is going on today.

    Honestly I think all of this will eventually and is being used as a further tool of control by both big government and corporations. The more of your life is on line the more others have control of your life. To buy, to sell, etc. I know it sounds like I am a conspiracy nut on this, but I do believe that is the direction, control.

    With this much information out there about every human being living in the US think how much time we are saving the NSA and the FBI.

  4. tootightmike says:

    And another little known local fact….it’s OK to pee in your yard as long as no one sees…your unit. just turn your back and everything’s OK…that is unless you’re in downtown Potsdam in a public space.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    My point remains. If it never goes away, it means the pile of you know what gets deeper and deeper. To find anything gets more difficult.
    There is such a thing as search rankings. The old gets piled under the new.
    But more to the point, what’s to hide?
    If you have nothing to hide or don’t care, being exposed, it doesn’t matter. If everyone is exposed, what’s the big deal?
    Probably the worst thing that can happen to someone who wants to blackmail someone is to be told by the intended victim, “Go for it.” Actually, not the worst. The worst would be to be killed by the intended victim. It takes two to play a game. If one won’t play, there is no game.

  6. Bret4207 says:

    Yes, it’s creepy. What’s creepier yet is the people that seem to be driven to look into others lives.

    BTW- using Google Earth is a handy way to plan out field shapes and things like that, but I still can’t find that brand new shovel my son “borrowed” and “misplaced”. Now THAT would be handy!

  7. Walker says:

    I’m not much concerned with the privacy issue, nor do I find that the proliferation of information, per se, is much of a problem. As someone whoo is interested in Adirondack history, I love the fact that all of the North Country’s newspapers are online, searchable and machine-readable at NNYLN.NET!

    What bugs me about the Internet is the proliferation of garbage sites masquerading as informational sites, especially in searches for place names. I would really love to see a domain established that omitted commercial sites, so that one could search only the non-commercial web. Granted, it gets fuzzy– a lot of primarily informational sites do some incidental selling to generate revenue.

    I suspect that the meteoric rise of Wikipedia has much to do with the fact that ads and selling are prohibited. It’s the only place I know of on the web to find (mostly) unbiased information on (almost) anything.

  8. Pete Klein says:

    Some things I find interesting in using the www.
    One is how you really need to be specific in a search. There are many Hamilton Counties. Also, there I times I wish the search engines wouldn’t insist when offering sites to offer sites based upon your passed history. It can be very aggravating.
    One thing seldom mentioned is how you can use a search engine to find the correct spelling of a word.
    Bottom line, I guess, is you just have to learn how to use the tools and maybe smile when you are in a store. You might be on candid camera.

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