A judge has ruled in favor of Google in lawsuit that was brought against the company for publishing a Street View image of a Pennsylvania home that's located on a private road.
The court actually kind of scolded the plaintiffs - a couple named Aaron and Christine Boring in Pittsburgh - because the two, who initially said they were concerned about the intrusion on their privacy wen they filed suit last year, did not take actions to protect their privacy. Simply put, the couple didn't offer a strong enough argument to warrant action by the court. In the dismissal filing (PDF), the court writes:
Although the Plaintiffs have alleged intrusion that was substantial and highly offensive to them and have asserted that others would have a similar reaction, they have failed to set out facts to substantiate this claim. This is especially true given the attention that the Borings have drawn to themselves and the Street View images of their property. The Borings do not dispute that they have allowed the relevant images to remain on Google Street View, despite the availability of a procedure for having them removed from view. Furthermore, they have failed to bar others' access to the images by eliminating their address from the pleadings, or by filing this action under seal. "Googling" the name of the Borings' attorney demonstrates that publicity regarding this suit has perpetuated dissemination of the Borings' names and location and resulted in frequent re-publication of the Street View images. The Plaintiffs' failure to take readily available steps to protct their own privacy and mitigate their alleged pain suggests to the Court that the intrusion and the their (sic) sufferings were less severe than they contend.
I still don't buy Google's earlier argument that, in an age of satellite and aerial imagery that privacy no longer exists and that it should be allowed to photograph on private roads. There should be some respect for roads that are marked private and homeowners who discourage trespassing.
Back in journalism school, we learned about public domain and such - especially as it pertains to photography. As a reporter, I can't just walk onto a school campus and start interviewing (and photographing) kids or walk into a Best Buy store and approach customers for an interview - unless I've obtained permission.
But from the sidewalk in front of that school or the street in front of that store, I can ask questions or shoot pictures of anyone. They have put themselves in public sight and have no reasonable expectation of privacy. They don't have to talk to me, of course - just as we've seen over and over again during high-profile cases when suspects, defendant and witnesses have cameras shoved in their faces as they walk from the courthouse to the car. Again, public domain.
In this particular case, the plaintiffs had to show that they'd been damaged by Google's actions so the burden of proof fell on the them. Google, of course, needed a defense - but it seems like it never really came down to that.
Plain and simple: the Borings couldn't make a case, so the court tossed the complaint - and set a precedent.