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Boring People Sue Google; Google Wins


Judge rules that Street View no violation of privacy.

Forget about Big Brother - Google (GOOG) is watching.

Google says traditional expectations of privacy are unrealistic in the age of satellite photos, computer mapping and the Internet.

A federal judge agrees, and says Google didn't invade the privacy of a Pennsylvania couple who charged that Google Maps' Street View violated their privacy.

Last year, Aaron and Christine Boring filed suit alleging that Google had trespassed and violated their privacy by snapping a picture of a "private road" sign in their driveway.

Cars equipped with cameras shoot 360-degree images used in Google's mapping service. Google launched the service in 2007 in the US ; it's since been expanded to include other countries.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Amy Reynolds said there was no proof that the couple had been harmed by the Street View image.

"While it is easy to imagine that many whose property appears on Google's virtual maps resent the privacy implications, it's hard to believe that any -- other than the most exquisitely sensitive -- would suffer shame or humiliation," the judge said in a 12-page decision.

Google noted that photos of the couple's house and floor plans are currently available to the public on the website of the Allegheny County assessor's office.

Nevertheless, privacy concerns quickly led Google to blur the faces of people snapped by its Street View cameras. Google also removes images at the request of property owners.

The key: Google doesn't ask permission before taking the pictures, but has established an opt-out procedure. The court said the Pennsylvania couple hadn't taken this basic step before filing the lawsuit.

But here's an interesting Catch-22: The judge said the couple drew attention to themselves by failing to file the lawsuit under seal to minimize exposure.

With few exceptions, isn't what goes on at the courthouse a matter of public record, or is it that citizens have an absolute right to sue as long as they don't exercise it?

Well, never mind. If you're overcome with adolescent angst, flip the bird when the Google camera shows up in your neighborhood. Should anyone object, call it art, scream "First Amendment!" and follow up with a copyright-infringement lawsuit. That might poke Google in the eye.
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