Privacy, Online Imagery Don’t Mix

Is it time to blur the line?

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People don’t have an expectation of privacy on a public street, but few expect a walk through the seedier side of town to become a snapshot with a potentially global focus, either.

Companies with an interest in bringing the sights of faraway places to the web browser may deliver more than expected. For the people who showed up in MapJack photos snapped in Thailand, those sights may look far too clear for comfort.

The Sydney Morning Herald gleefully recounted MapJack’s recent trip to Pattaya, a resort town in Thailand with a reputation for sex tourists. Some people who may or may not have wanted to be a permanent part of the scenery ended up there after MapJack’s cameras passed through the place in the past few months.

A MapJack representative said in the report the company would blur faces or license plates on request. Not many people make those requests, apparently, but who would think to go back and look at an online mapping site repeatedly on the off chance they were caught on camera?

It’s not just trips to destinations of questionable morality that should concern people who may be the subject of the unblinking eye of a tech firm’s photography efforts. What if someone with a grudge happens to browse the whereabouts of a former spouse looking for leads, and odds against odds spots the person?

We’ve been enthused about the utility of imagery on the Internet, to give people a reasonably detailed peek at where they live, or even where they want to go. But we’re hard-pressed to come up with an argument favoring the continued placement of unknowing people, in unblurred pictures, online routinely.

Privacy, Online Imagery Don’t Mix
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