Boring couple sue Google for invasion of privacy over Street View

April 5, 2008

Boring couple sue Google for invasion of privacy over Street ViewAs soon as Google introduced Street View, the eye level photographs section, to Google Maps, there were accusations of privacy invasions and the encroachment of civil liberties. Now, a couple from Pittsburgh is suing Google in what could end up being an important test case.

The Boring couple, Aaron and Christine Boring (as far as I’m aware, that’s their real surname), are suing Google for invasion of privacy, accusing the company of an “intentional and/or grossly reckless invasion” of their privacy because their street is “clearly marked with a ‘Private Road’ sign.”

According to The Smoking Gun, the lawsuit case was filed in Allegheny County’s Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday.

The Borings claim they bought their Oakridge Lane property in late 2006 for a considerable amount of money in the hope that the private road setting would offer them the privacy that they desired.

Unfortunately that privacy didn’t last long as Pittsburgh was added to the Street View component of Google Maps last October, and a photo of their home immediately became available to people searching online.

The Borings allege that this caused a devaluing of their property, as well as mental suffering to them personally. The couple are seeking damages in excess of $25,000 and want a court order to force Google to destroy any images of their home.

I do have some sympathy for the couple, as there is certainly a case for arguing that the Street View feature is taking people’s privacy away. However, the chances are that no-one would have ever searched for the couple home had they not filed this lawsuit.

Now, not only is the case being reported around the World Wide Web on technology, privacy and dumb news story sites, but pictures of the couple’s home are also spreading like wildfire.

Boring Couple House Subject To Google Lawsuit

The Allegheny County’s Office of Property Assessments even includes a picture of the property on its site, so maybe the Borings should be suing them at the same time.

According to CNet, Google have responded to the claim by stating there is no merit in it:

“It is unfortunate litigation was chosen to address the concern because we have visible tools, such as a YouTube video to help people learn about image removal, and an easy-to-use process to facilitate any such request.”

This should be an interesting case to watch, but in the meantime, what are the chances that the Borings are going to have to move after they get hounded by the press and public, for bringing up this lawsuit in the first place?

Oh, the irony.

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19 Responses to “Boring couple sue Google for invasion of privacy over Street View”

  1. Mapper99:

    Good thing they weren’t skinny dipping in the pool like these unfortunate Google Street View victims:

  2. Taylor:

    It’s not invasion of privacy because the images are plainly visible from a public place, in this case the road. It’s the same reason that aerial photographs of gated communities are not invasion of privacy — it’s visible from public airspace.

    In this case, I could stand outside their house and take photographs (with a normal lens and recording medium) all day long.

    Do these people really have an expectation of privacy from people driving down the street? What’s pissing them off is the accessibility of the images — not any violation of their rights.

    This has been litigated before (by the US Supreme Court if I remember correctly) — unless they’ve got some spin on the case that I’m not reading, a judge *should* toss it out.

  3. Susan Wilson:

    The real problem is the ugliness of their house and property. Shees, I wouldn’t want those pictures to be posted either but not because of an invasion of privacy…

  4. Joe:

    Smells like they might have figured out a way to make a few dollars in an out of court settlement with the Big Corp. Google. Sounds more like Greed than Invasion of Privacy. If these pictures shown and their angles are available from ANY public space then its not privacy invasion. Now walking around the property to get these angles might raise eyebrows as why they are needed … all is needed is the GOOGLE CAR CAMERA photos driving down the street. Welcome the the age of information… maybe too much of it. Maybe not as I enjoy looking at Google streets as they help me travel virtually… not wasting gas in a car.

  5. Format6:

    “devaluing of their property” Devaluing it because people can see the sht house on top of it? ummm any buyer is going find that peice in the end street view or not. This is greed pure and simple.

  6. Ken:

    Google won’t settle this, unless they want to have 150,000 suits filed. I hope the court finds this a frivolous lawsuit and fines court cost + $25,000.

  7. Lodi:

    The picture was taken from the road which is a PRIVATE road, therefore it is not only an illegal invasion of privacy, but also trespassing. They should sue for more money!

  8. Tyrone:

    That whole private/public road thing is what’s gonna be played out in court. If it is true, that the car was on private property, and not a city street – then yeah, Google’s in a bit of trouble.
    You can call it firvolous if you want, but if you pay more for privacy, you DESERVE it, in my view.
    Now, if the picutre was taken from a public street, then yeah, the Borings can shove it, which is what any competent judge would politely tell them.

  9. Will:

    It’s not the fact that I object to the street view photos although I do see them as an invasion of privacy, It is the aerial views which have all four sides of my home that you can actually zoom in on. This invites thieves and burglars to view these maps and plan an attack on my home. I am really surprised that with all the homeland security hooplah that this would be legal at all. Why do people need to see in my side and back yards? I for one hope this turn into a large class action lawsuit to stop this kind of Big Brother technology! What’s next the Cameras that can see through walls? Where are those ambulance chasing lawyers now? Oh yeah, their suing drug companies.

  10. Steve Johnson:

    Invasion of privacy most definitely can be done even when standing on “public” property (i.e. the street).

    People are entitled to what is called a “reasonable expectation of privacy” under certain circumstances. This has been established by cases on the subject. One of the times they are entitled to it is if they are inside their own home. That means if you take a picture of them through the window, or potentially even through an open door, then you are indeed invading their privacy.

    I know this because I was recently involved in such a case. The house in question was set back somewhere around 150 feet from the street and the neighbor across the street, using a zoom lens, took pictures of the property across the street. This was ruled an invasion of privacy and the plaintiff prevaled, with monetary damages.

    In this case where it is a private street I believe the test for privacy should indeed be what a normal person (sans any telescope, zoom lense, special audio amplifier etc) can see or hear from a public place.

    I think they are suing for far too little. I also agree that there is no need for the aerial photos and that they could, indeed be used at least in part to plan a break in.

    Google counters with the option to remove the pictures, however, the infraction of the law took place the instant the picture/video was taken. Offering to remove it later does not remedy the situation. What they should have done to be legal was to get the permission of the landowner to photograph their property.

    I wonder how many people would agree to this and how many would turn it down. I know that I would tell google to take a hike and stay out of/off of my property.


  11. AreUStupid:

    I can’t believe the audacity of Google and the fools who commented on their behalf. Many of you who have made remarks regarding the condition of the Borings’ home and property are missing the point. The point is no one has the right to make money off of you without your consent.

    We live in a private subdivision whose streets are not maintained by the county. I was absolutely livid when I saw my OPEN garage and vehicle with readable plates (it only takes a few clicks to make it out) or the school bus our children ride with the number brandished so boldly. I have been appalled at the blatant disregard for the law Google has taken in some of these instances. If we are to live by the laws set in place, why aren’t conglomerates made to do so as well?

    Shameful!! Very shameful to the many of you who condone such unethical behavior and who degrade those working people who deserve the same protection you do!

    I guess morality means nothing to you people.

  12. Tom:

    “vehicle with readable plates”

    I call Shenanigans.
    Google has a program that scans all images for things shaped like license plates and automatically blurs them – rendering any plates unreadable.

  13. Lorraine:

    Google have not blurred my license plate

  14. Victor:

    Hi, there and hello to space.

    My point of view is ..definetly, all Google Street Views should not be allowed.

    What I feel about it:
    - It damages tourism.

    - It may help to criminals to organise their bank robbery.

    - There is a probability that it can be invasion to privacy.

    ..another surprising fact are Bing maps..
    For me unbelievable.. You can see what is behind a bank….

  15. Roger Wilson:

    What nobody seems to understand is that the government has technology far beyond this view , yea , it’s cool to look at , almost mesmerizing , and that’s what our government depends on , keeping you distracted from any oversight of their activities , all your privacy is gone and all of your rights are gone , and all of our primitive little minds are occupied , and know this , while you’re sitting at your keyboard with bloodshot eyes 3 o’clock in the morning driving mindless views in google maps , a half a world away , young men are dying in a stupid war because you were to distracted to notice. Oh ,and don’t forget to tell your grand kids that you’re sorry the shape we left the planet in , seeing as there’s no fish , clean air or water left , and we’re also sorry about the missing ozone layer , Big Brother told us to relax , he’d keep his EYE on everything.

  16. que nha ta:

    def. of invasion of privacy: is that every person reserves the right to videotape, taking pictures or herhalf use google earth device to record a bird or any type of objects that is okay. If sone ome intent to vandalize soneone’s property and intent to set videocamera from their window to see what victim have to say and display on webs to intimadte and harass, this is obsolutly invasion of privacy rights act

  17. Sammy Hoscheid:

    Thanks for the info, but I can’t import to the server and the message like this

  18. Jared:

    I agree with the borings. I live in a gated community and feel their grief and angst towards this, I hope they win the lawsuit.

  19. Daniel:

    When I complained about Google photographing us and our kids working in our yard with our windows and garage open so that all our belonging, entrances and exits are clearly visible, they replied it is not possible to remove the photographs “for various technical reasons”. This is not only a violation of our privacy but a safety issue. This behemoth corporation is publishing our personal information and images for their profit. It is not theirs to profit from. It is theft. And if our property and or family members are being “cased” by criminals, the fault falls to Google for putting this information up for the entire world to see. I certainly will not be buying or using any of their products.

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