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GOOGLE'S UBIQUITOUS LENS

Tech fear is out of proportion

February 17, 2009
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PETER FUNT ("Google is watching") should look up the word "eavesdropping." He uses it, along with other scare words such as "Orwellian" and "snooping," to describe Google's Latitude location-tracking service. Then he notes that it's for "consenting users" who opt in so that they can keep in touch with their friends. If you opt in, what happens is not eavesdropping.

After seeing his house pictured on the web using Google's Street Views, Funt worries that burglars might find the "open window on the second floor" inviting. What he fails to mention is that the picture was likely snapped months ago.

If Funt insists on using the word "Orwellian," he could at least supply credible scenarios in which the technology leads to a totalitarian government. Instead, he asks rhetorically, what if he paid a team to scan Street View images for "driveways in need of repair, then sold the list to a paving company?" I'll tell you what: At worst, you'd get a piece of mail from a paving company.

Funt compares Google's service to existing manifestations of Big Brother, such as convenience-store security cameras, seemingly oblivious to the reason those cameras are there. If someone happened to steal Funt's credit card and pass it at one of those stores, police would use the video to catch the criminal and thus protect Funt's privacy.

There's an appropriate response to this ongoing hysterical tendency to ascribe malevolence to unfamiliar technologies: LOL.

Michael Sierra
Concord

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