Monday, June 02, 2008


Big Brother is watching you.

But it's likely that no one is paying attention.

Odds are that every week you are being captured by a video camera. Maybe everyday.

Over the weekend, I noticed the signs at Target that said they were using survailance cameras.

And while it used to be a novelty, it has now become common place. Most retailers don't announce they are watching you, but look around as you go about your life this week and you'll start to notice the cameras.

Are they being monitored live? Or are they just recording and then viewed only if something goes wrong?

Do you use an A.T.M.? Did you smile pretty when it silently took your picture?

Here's what prompted me to write about this today:

Minnesota town tells Google Maps to get lost

This is as far as Google Maps Street View will take you in North Oaks, Minn., before it politely takes a right turn.

(Credit: Google)

A small town in Minnesota has told Google that its Street View feature can hit the road.

North Oaks, a private community of 4,500 residents north of St. Paul, isn't too keen on outsiders traipsing through its privately owned streets--even if is only on the Internet. According to the city's Web site, the roads are privately owned, and a no-trespassing sign greets potential visitors to the city.

So city officials were really unhappy when images of their streets and homes appeared on the Google Maps Street View feature, which presents a view of dozens of United States cities from a driver's perspective.

The North Oaks City Council sent the Internet search giant a letter in January demanding that images be removed or risk being cited for trespassing, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

"It's not the hoity-toity folks trying to figure out how to keep the world away," Mayor Thomas Watson told the newspaper. "They really didn't have any authorization to go on private property."

The company removed the images shortly thereafter, a Google representative told the newspaper.

"This is very rare, where an entire town would request to be taken off," Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo told the paper, adding that the company removes images when individuals make the request.

Google is no stranger to complaints about its Street View service. Not long after the feature launched in May 2007, privacy advocates criticized Google for displaying photographs that included people's faces and car license plates. In May, the company announced that it had begun testing face-blurring technology for the service.

In April, a Pittsburgh couple sued Google over photographs of their home that appeared on the company's site, saying Google should honor a private road sign on their street. It claims that Google's "reckless conduct" has "exposed plaintiff's private information to the public."

For those who weren't exactly comfortable with ordinary photos of their property appearing on the Net, get ready to reveal a little more. A couple of weeks ago, Google confirmed that it is gathering 3D data, along with the photographs it takes for its online Street View service.

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