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May 30th, 2007
06:26 pm
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Date:May 31st, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)
He's standing on the sidewalk facing away from the strip club and could easily be waiting for traffic to clear to get across the street to the thai place, or the bodega or the movie theatre or Quiznos. Or he could have been coming from The Great American Music Hall half a block away. (This was taken a block from my dorm.) In this particular instance, if you're going to stand on a public street in downtown SF, there will be a strip club or adult business somewhere in the background.

I would have a hard time claiming invasion of privacy in this photo. He's not shown anywhere near a residence and this also falls solidly within the journalism invasion of privacy standards. While I see your point, I don't think this photo is the best example.
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Date:May 31st, 2007 07:03 pm (UTC)
True that he could be there for any number of reasons, but that's not the assumption people are going to make. If he's NOT there for porn ... well, I don't see how that makes it any better. I don't know if it's recognized in the U.S., but some jurisdictions consider information that's substantially true but misleads people into believing something false about the target to be defamatory.

And as far as invasion of privacy - what you're thinking of (seeing as how we both have media backgrounds) probably isn't actually privacy law, but rather the distinction between public and private figures and legitimate news interest. Such as:

A newspaper in Alabama published a photograph of a woman whose dress was lifted by jets of air at a Fun House at a county fair. The court ruled that the photograph, which showed her panties, had no "legitimate news interest to the public" and upheld an award of $ 4166 to plaintiff, for invasion of her privacy. Daily Times Democrat v. Graham, 162 So.2d 474 (Ala. 1964).

Used to be, when there was a limited number of publishing outlets and those had to hew to the ethical standards of old-school journalism, the "legitimate news interest" bullet point was a decent protection. But anyone who argued the same thing against the same photo on Google Maps would probably get laughed out of a courtroom; they're only a news organization by the longest stretch of the imagination, and they can argue that their "public interest" is in the full data set, the individual offending photo being triflingly incidental.

So where's our recourse if something embarrassing does come up and become a net meme?
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Date:June 1st, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
You mean like the Star Wars Kid?

I also have to come down on the side of the particular example you chose as not being a big deal, for several reasons. First, there has always been a risk of public embarrassment where personal activities are involved, and it predates even the printed word. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a group of people that debated the merits of having the events of people's lives broadcast in a newspaper, and I could even spend some time hand-picking articles from the last year to justify their apprehensions.

Then there's the matter of the embarrassment itself. As a pragmatist, I have to say that a person can only be embarrassed by something that they are ashamed of. The entire matter of embarrassment then becomes one of personal development; the individual must come to terms with their beliefs versus their actions, either by more proudly keeping their beliefs, or by changing their actions. Either way, it's somewhat irresponsible to fault others for one's embarrassment.

Oddly enough, I had to think about that a little bit today long before coming across this. I finally got a bookcase into my room and set to unpacking a couple of boxes of books. I eventually came to a couple of books that I had forgotten about, and I sat for a few minutes internally struggling with the decision to set them on the shelf, or dispose of them. I was concerned that if anyone -- say, my roommate for example, or a guest -- happened to spot them, I would be embarrassed. After considering my motivations for getting them in the first place, and their content, and the possible responses I might have for someone that asked about them, I put them on the shelf and considered the matter settled. Their titles were "Sex" (a somewhat decently-sized volume), and "A Man's Guide To Women" (much smaller; I think that's funny).

So, if the fellow there might be embarrassed by his presence outside a strip joint, he should either stop going -- he could run into his boss one evening anyway, after all -- or he should become comfortable with the fact that, hey, it's a fun place to visit.

I think your concern is stemming more from the fact that Google has a much wider circulation than any print newspaper, and that this fellow might lose his job if a co-worker happened to Google that very address. I think the first point is irrelevant, and the second point is the result of a set of societal mores that need to be addressed anyway.

What I am not in favor of, and will remain forever opposed to, is state-run surveillance for any purpose, but especially for the purposes of law enforcement. In that regard, England has become the very last place in the world that I intend to visit.
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