- North Oaks tells Google Maps: Keep out – we mean it (Star Tribune) — A suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota has demanded that Google remove all images from Street View, citing its laws against trespassing. The city’s roads are privately owned by its residents. Google has complied with the request. In other Street View news, Google is experimenting with face blurring technology to quell privacy concerns and avoid embarrassing incidents.
- Corn price is factor in rising movie ticket prices (Kansas City Star) — Yet another weird way in which high oil prices are causing inflation. As increased demand for ethanol raises the price of seed corn, movie theaters are raising prices for popcorn. Which means fewer people will buy popcorn. The fewer people that buy popcorn, the lower the profit for movie theaters, who make up to 45% of their profit selling overpriced junk food. The lower the profit on concessions, the more they charge for tickets. Regal Entertainment’s CEO claims, “If we didn’t charge as much for concessions as we did, the tickets to the movies would cost $20.” Some theaters are going beyond that — a Redmond theater opening this fall plans to charge $35 per ticket. And the popcorn is extra.
- Economist traces height trends (Chicago Tribune) — What does height have to do with economics? A German economist claims that it reflects a nation’s wealth and income equality. He finds that the tallest people are in countries with universal healthcare. “Today the average height for Dutch males is a shade less than 6 foot 1, making them the tallest people in the world. Scandinavian males run a close second.” He doesn’t seem to take into account the effects of immigration, which undoubtedly lower U.S. averages. via Erica Schlosser
- Designer of Pringles can is buried in his invention (AP/CNN) — Frederic J. Baur was so proud of the Pringles can that he designed that he chose to have his ashes buried in one. Talk about devotion to your work. Baur was granted a patent for the can design. Although that patent is too old to for the USPTO’s online database, a search for “pringles” finds 35 patents that mention the snack, including a chair that uses a “PRINGLES potato chip shape,” “Electron source for food treating apparatus and method,” “Method for preparing sauteed vegetables,” and “ Method and apparatus for vending food products from a roller-type grilling apparatus.” I think you might be able to find that last one at the Kwik-E-Mart. via Molly Stevens
June 3, 2008
November 20, 2007
October 2, 2007
Flickr is one of the treasures of the Web. You can find high quality images on just about every topic imaginable. It’s great for sharing with friends, planning vacations and illustrating blog posts. It also raises a lot of issues relating to intellectual property, privacy rights and publicity rights.
The New York Times has a piece on the intersection of social networks, privacy rights and intellectual property. Virgin Mobile in Australia used a picture of Alison Chang posted on flickr as part of a billboard. The picture had been uploaded by photographer Justin Ho-Wee Wong, who assigned a Creative Commons license, allowing for commercial use of his picture.
Under U.S. law (which I don’t think would apply in this case), there are two separate issues. One is the rights of the photographer who took the picture. It seems that in case, the license provided by Wong allowed for use by Virgin Mobile. The other issue is the the rights of the person in the photo. Generally speaking, your picture cannot be used for commercial purposes without your consent. It can however be used for editorial purposes; if you’re at a news event, a newspaper or TV station doesn’t have to have your permission to show you.
Of course, this brings up the issue of defining “commercial purposes” and “consent.” Is Google Street View a commercial use? What if they put ads around the Street View images? Many semi-public places like sports arenas and theme parks state (often in fine print on the back of your ticket) that you give consent to commercial use of your likeness by entering. These same places prohibit you from using pictures that you take inside for commercial purposes.
I’ve thought a lot about these two issues as I’ve uploaded pictures to flickr. I typically post pictures with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. People are free to use my pictures for noncommercial purposes, as long as they credit me. They can also make derivative works, as long as those works are also shared. In two cases that I know of, my pictures have appeared in print publications.
The other issue is privacy. I try to edit out (or at least mark private) any images that might be embarrassing to my friends. I don’t include people’s last names in the tags or descriptions to prevent directed searches. I’ve had a couple of requests to take down or edit images of friends, which I honor.
September 19, 2007
September 17, 2007
June 7, 2007
Lewis Black has a hilarious rant on privacy issues of Street View from the “worldwide leader in freaking people out”.
The Freakonomics blog has an interview with Google Product Manager Stephen Chau on Street View.
June 1, 2007
The New York Times’ Miguel Helft has a piece this morning on the privacy implications of Google’s Street View. I found this picture of a Civic Hybrid parked near Google headquarters the other day. You can clearly read the “I (heart) 51 MPG” vanity plate.
License plates are among the possible privacy concerns Helft cites:
There was the picture of a clearly identifiable man standing in front of an establishment offering lap dances and other entertainment in San Francisco. The site LaudonTech.com showed an image of a man entering a pornographic bookstore in Oakland, but his face was not visible.
Others pointed to pictures of cars whose license plates were clearly readable. One pointed to images captured inside the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, a controversial location for photography in this high-security era. On Lombard Street in San Francisco, various tourists who had come to photograph the famously curvy street were photographed themselves.
He notes that Google worked with the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence to remove pictures of shelters.
I think the privacy issues here are limited. The images are devoid of most context. You don’t when or why someone was in a particular place. From the picture above, all you can tell is that someone who drives a Civic Hybrid with the plates “I (heart) 51 MPG” parked near Google.
But you could get the same information (and more) driving down the street.
As it turns out, I found the same car on flickr. That picture includes a time stamp. (It’s possible the two were taken the same day; a black Acura TL is parked in front of it, just like in the picture above.)
Still, from a privacy standpoint, I prefer the fuzzier images that appear in Google’s Street View outside the Bay Area. Google did its own imaging in the Bay Area and licensed images from Immersive Media for other markets. In New York, I had a much harder time making out faces or signs. The pictures are clear enough to get a feel for an area without the high level of detail you find in San Francisco.
May 29, 2007
Google today released Street View, allowing users to zoom in to street level in New York, Miami, San Francisco, Denver and Las Vegas. (I can’t help but think Denver was selected to get a dig in at Mapquest.) It’s the greatest thing since… the original Google Maps.
Street View allows you to virtually walk along a given street. Amazon’s A9 tried this a couple of years ago, but Google’s attempt is much easier to navigate. A9 rendered sequential pictures of a given block; I always got lost trying to use A9.
Google presents the imagery as a Flash that you can “walk” through. You can turn your head or zoom in and out. You can even turn down a corner onto another street. Street View supports keyboard shortcuts; the left and right arrow pan the view and up/down move you forward and back.
The imagery makes it easy to get a feel for the neighborhood. (Minus the smell of trash and honking of cars.)
It’s sufficiently blurry that you can’t make out faces or read license plates. It’s like walking around the city without your glasses.
It’s not yet integrated with the map search. For example, I did a search for “Hummus” and found the business. But I then had to move my little avatar to the business location. Instant teleportation would be nice; I should be dropped in front of the business facing it. At least you don’t have to wait to hail a cab.
Update: Although I couldn’t make out license plates or faces in New York, I was able to see them in the Bay Area. Google did its own imaging in the Bay Area and those images seem to be much clearer.