Camera Obscura

An organization calling itself Privacy International have complained to the Information Commissioner (very 1984) that the new Google Street View infringes people’s privacy because some are identifiable in the photos therein. And? What’s the problem? Every day, all over the world people are innocent bystanders caught a photographer’sviewfinder. Shots of people walking to work, waiting on train stations, shopping in the high street or sitting on beaches are published online ,in newspapers and in magazines to illustrate stories from the state of the economy, the state of the weather.

Now if I could ask you all to sign this form....

Now if I could ask you all to sign this form....

It’s common practice and perfectly legal. Those people captured on film are merely part of the landscape of the image. If the good people at PI have their way photo editors would spend more time pixilating or masking-out the faces of those in the frame. The alternative, I guess, would be to have every man jack of them sign a model-release form, allowing their face to be published. Well that’s not gonna happen. It’s not an intrusion of privacy. No-one’s poking their noses into your little lives or keeping track of you. It’s a photo illustrating a scene. Don’t flatter yourself—you AIN’T the subject.

Same goes for the Google bods: they’ve come up with a gadget that let’s you, me and anyone else see almost every street in London, letting us while-away many a dull afternoon in the office, and it gives iPhone owners another chance to bore us rigid with what their new machine can do. And YES there ARE people in some of the images. Of course there are: IT”S THE CAPITAL OF ENGLAND!!!! But that’s not the point of it. And even if it was, WHO CARES???? If you happen to be seen exiting a massage parlour, sitting outside a wine bar, plying your secretary with chardonnay or spewing up on the pavement that’s just tough. Not Google’s problem. If you wanna play-away with Miss Jones or fall over elephants that’s your look-out.

You can almost see the veins in her neck

You can almost see the veins in her neck

It’s perfectly acceptable and legal to take photos on a public street OF the public street and almost anything you damn well like. Ok, if you stand outside an army base, or an airport and start shnapping through the barbed wire at people or equipment, you’re liable (and probably deservedly) get your collar felt by Knacker of the Yard. For years Middle England have moaned about photographers and their long, intrusive lenses. Snappers for the redtops sit in bushes or in the back of blacked-out vans, training their lenses on some poor sod or celebrity who they deem to have been up to no good. Street View does nothing of the sort. Google used a 360 degree wide-angle. How much shorter do you want a lens to be????

My local. I must have been at the bar

My local. I must have been at the bar

So who are Privacy International and it’s supporters? It’s website states that they’re “a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations”. Surveillance? Google aren’t putting you under surveillance, they’re just photographing the street where you live, in the same manner tourists the world over photograph Pal Mall, Las Ramblas or that quaint little village near the resort you stayed in last year in Thailand. Does this mean Flickr will be shut down too? Is this the end of your neighbour’s boring holiday-snap evenings? Wait a minute: I’m sure a Japanese family took a photo of me outside The National Gallery the other day. I WANT THEIR NAMES, FILM AND SERIAL NUMBERS.

Five will get you ten that the people who subscribe to PI’s views are also Facebook addicts and Twitter junkies (“just had pony, can’t be arsed to wash hands and now walking around with knickers around ankles, talk later”).Something really odd is happening. One hand the world wants to tell me absolutely everything about themselves and what they’re doing IN REAL TIME, show me photos of their friends, what their dog looks like, who they’ve snogged and what they looked like the last seventeen times they went to a party or a club. But take a photo of them walking down Oxford Street, carrying a H&M bag and all hell breaks loose.

Smile, you're on t'internet

Smile, you're on t'internet

It’s not CCTV, it’s not stalking you (most of these snaps were last summer anyway) it’s a bit of fun which may be of some interest to a few, lonely people. Focus your protests on something else. There’s plenty to be scared of out there—it’s just that this isn’t it. So next time you’re out-and-about, make sure you’re not with someone you shouldn’t be, and PLEASE stop picking your nose.



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