Egginghaus and German Street View

[Editor Charlie says:  This Chris Castle post originally appeared in MTP on Nov. 23, 2010.  We are reposting in light of Google’s recent efforts through cut outs and the trade groups in their paid service to perpetuate Google’s safe harbor in the European Copyright Directive so ably exposed by David Lowery, Volker Reick, the Times of London and FAZ.  Perhaps the MEPs voting against Google should get ready for an Egginghaus.]

The brilliantly witty Chris Matyszczyk has a fascinating story of lobbing, Google style, in reaction to the launch in Germany of Google Street View.   That’s right.  Lobbing, not lobbying.  Or at least it would appear so. (With apologies to Julius Ebbinghaus.)

Organizing the World’s Information Whether the World Likes it or Not

Apparently, 3% of Germans already want out of Street View 2 weeks after Google launched the intrusive product.  But let’s be clear about what “getting out of Street View” means–Google will take pictures of your house and put them on the Internet, but they won’t remove the pictures if you ask them to.  They will “blur” (or “pixelize”) the picture of your house to preserve your privacy–whatever that means. That is, they will pixelize the picture of your house as Google sees fit when Google gets around to it.  You can check out any time you like, but you can’t ever leave.

People who want to remove their buildings from Street View are becoming known as “pixelators”.  Yes.  It’s true.  The Pixelators: A new group to demonize for the Google PR machine.

And of course,  you can see your house right over the notice on each Street View image that says “© 2010 Google, Inc.”   Or to paraphrase a noted political figure, you might say “I can see Google’s copyright notice on my house!”

Now you might say that 3% of the population is a lot of people who don’t want something.  And you’d be right.  That’s certainly enough to throw an election.  (For reference, the Pirate Party needed 4% to get a seat in the Swedish Parliament.)

But here’s a different view from the Google press: “Despite Germany Threatening to Sue Google, Only 3% Have Opted Out of Street View“–since the pictures went online 2 weeks ago.  With the usual equivocation that is the hall mark of the Google movement, a couple facts are downplayed.  About 250,000 people out of 8 million or so have already come forward–in 2 weeks–to say they want out of the whole thing.  You can view that as a success if you like, but what that says to me is that there are a lot of people who are going to be telling their friends how to become Pixelators.  I’d say let’s check back in 6 months and see how things are going.

And then there’s Jeff Jarvis (author of What Would Google Do? a “…scattered collection of rambling rants lauding Google’s abilities to harness the power of the Internet Age [that] generally misses the mark.  While his insights are stimulating, Jarvis’s tone is acerbic and condescending; equally off-putting is his pervasive name-dropping” according to Publishers Weekly).

Professor Jarvis is full of pixel and vinegar about anyone who would do what Google would not: “You [pixelators] have digitally desecrated your cities” the noted Google supporter blogged, recounting a Green Party meeting he attended with “someone”: “As someone in the audience said when I spoke on the topic at a meeting of the Green party in Berlin a few weeks ago, it is as if they [the pixelators] are digitally bombing the German landscape.”  “Desecrated”?   “Bombing”? Really?

The Incredible Lobbable Egg

In an interesting twist–some of the Germans who had their houses blurred in Street View got their houses pelted with eggs and had signs hung on their doors saying “Google is cool!” apparently by advertising loving “vigilantes” who like the commercialization of their homes.  And maybe even their own homes.  You can’t buy that kind of loyalty.

I guess.

An alternate slogan for the sign could have been “Pixelization Doesn’t Scale!”

Grassroots vigilantism in support of American multinational corporations is such a grand tradition in Europe, no one should be surprised that Google evokes this kind of demonstration.  Particularly since Google did so well with the German book authors in the Google Books catastrophe (see “German Authors Outraged at Google Book Search“).

I swear, I swear, I swear I’m not making this up–read Chris Matyszczyk’s story.  There’s more and he’s much funnier than I am.

But ask yourself this: Given what we have seen of organic rioting in Europe, we know that these free rangers are no chickens.  What kind of a self-respecting anti-pixelator would select the humble egg as a weapon of choice in such a situation?

Pixelators of the World, Unite!

In other news from the Goolag, eWeek reports that “Street View in Germany may get a curve ball later in 2010.  Germany Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the government will introduce a new privacy code in December, inviting Google and other Internet companies to submit suggestions for self-regulation before then.

Street View has had a harrying week. Canadian privacy officials said Google’s data collection in Canada violated privacy law, albeit unintentionally.  “Unintentionally”…must mean aside from that data collection working according to plan?

The company is now pursuing legal action against the country in the matter.”

No wait.  That last sentence should be “The country is now pursuing legal action against Google in the matter.”  You caught that, right?

Google told the BBC “‘We respect people’s right to remove their house from Street View and by no means consider this [egg lobbing] to be acceptable behaviour.'”  (But you can’t remove your house from Street View….  So Google may respect the right, but they don’t permit the exercise of the right they supposedly respect?]

As Kashmir Hill of Forbes said, “It’s ironic that those who wanted more privacy through blurring their homes wound up getting less of it.”  One might also ask if the egg lobbists wore “V” style “Guy Fawkes” masks.

Doesn’t it make you mad enough to pixelize?

See also: Wayward Google fans pelt houses with eggs (Deutsche Welle)

See also: Google Street View Lovers Egg Blurred German Houses (Forbes) by Kashmir Hill

See also: German vandals target Street View opt-out homes (BBC)