Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Privacy Invasion Discussion about Google Street View in Germany and the EU Ignores the Fact that the Government Already Spies on Citizens from the Air

The Google Street View privacy invasion discussion in Germany and the European Union is in some cases being conducted in a vacuum of facts. We think that most commentators would be more moderate in their opinions about Google Street View in the EU if they knew what photographic and GSP material was ALREADY available about every location, prior to Google.

Via Henrik Wild at his Sightwalk Twitter site, we are directed to a German-language website that carries an August 23, 2010 article by Margret Kiosz of SHZ (Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag) that we will explain here in English. That article is "Street View"-Alternativen : Beschattung von oben (Street View Alternatives : Spying from the Air).

In her article Kiosz informs us that while Google Street View often presents only a simple aerial view of a particular location, the Deutsche Telekom (literally "German Telecom") via its webservice telephone information page telefonbuch.de under the menu items "Karte/Luftbild/Vogelperspektive" [map, aerial, bird's eye view] for a particular address and telephone number -- already offers to anyone, customizable variable aerial views of greater sophistication and detail than Google thus far offers. The German government is involved indirectly here by the way, since Deutsche Telekom was privatized in 1996, but the company is still about 1/3 owned by the State.

The aerial imagery in Germany does not stop there. For example, as Kiosz writes, in the German State of Schleswig-Holstein (Kiel is the capital city), the government takes detailed aerial photographs of one-fifth of the State every year and uses these for multiple government purposes, including determination of buildings and construction on a given property, land survey, various environmental parameters, etc. For example, lasers even measure rooftops to determine the suitability of each roof for solar panels.

ALL of this highly detailed geodata is available for purchase for commercial use and in 2007 the 2 DVDs containing all the GPS data for every building in the State could be purchased for about €140000.

The entire misguided discussion about the danger to individual privacy that Google Street View allegedly could present is simply largely a "non-issue" created out of thin air by the uninformed. Anyone wishing to obtain detailed GPS information and photographs of a given location was able to do so long before Google's Street View -- for a price.

Anonymous Online Commenters and Critics Who Are Careless About Facts Are Increasingly Risking Lawsuits and Can Easily Be Tracked Down Once Sued

"A false sense of Internet security can mean legal quagmires for critics who are careless about facts" is the subtitle of Blogger beware: Postings can lead to lawsuits, an August 23, 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times by David G. Savage of the Tribune Washington Bureau.

The article particularly addresses anonymous online comments, postings and/or emails, which are often used by anonymous persons to libel and slander the reputations of others and/or to spread untruths.

As Savage writes:
"The right to speak, whether anonymously or otherwise, is not unlimited," wrote Judge Margaret McKeown....
""A lot of people don't know how easy it is to track them down" once a lawsuit is filed, said Sara J. Rose, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer in Pittsburgh."

Legal Education: Its Real Value According to a Law School Dean

John Farmer Jr., Dean of the Rutgers School of Law-Newark, has a take as a guest columnist at the NJ Star-Ledger on The real value of a legal education.

Will the Congressionally Abetted Plundering of America Continue? Paul Krugman Rightly Observes "Now That's Rich"

Paul Krugman in Now That’s Rich at the New York Times rightly roasts Congress for even considering an extension of the disastrous Bush tax cuts past 2010.

As Krugman rightly observes, the same politicians who are pinching pennies for the mass of Americans:
"[A]re eager to cut checks averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the country....

No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy. Instead, as I said, it’s about a dysfunctional and corrupt political culture, in which Congress won’t take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.
There are a lot of people who still erroneously think that plundering America's wealth is OK, but being asked to put back their corresponding share into the economy is not their responsibility.

Since it is not in the nature of human nature for people to give up anything voluntarily, the only real solution for America's egregious inequality of income is probably only strong, willful inflation, combined with the printing of a lot of cash by the government, to be distributed sensibly to the have-nots. In this manner, the imbalance of wealth can be reduced and some redistribution of wealth can be achieved without resorting to the political fireball of personal income tax increases.

As a matter of system correction, the correct solution is to have laws which limit inequality of compensation. For 40 hours of work, no matter what a man does, no company executive should be able to earn more than 10 times more than what the lowest man on the scale -- also working 40 hours per week -- earns at his company. That would set things right and would force the executives of companies to adopt fairer systems of compensation for all.

Currently that is not the case. As we wrote previously at LawPundit in Economic Recovery & Executive Earnings Salaries Bonuses and Compensation: Establishing Sensible Legal Guidelines for the Distribution of Remuneration:
"In the United States executive salaries have been spiraling upward since 1970, the beginning of the oil-cartel induced price-push inflation spiral. Indeed, Gabaix and Landler discovered that from 1980 to 2003 market capitalization of companies in the U.S. had increased six-fold and that executive compensation had kept pace with that, as opposed to normal salaries which only kept pace with the actual economic growth of ca. 2.5 % a year."
Putting it simply, if you are an average American employee, the company heads are ripping you off royally, abetted by the U.S. Congress and a number of previous American Presidents.

Latvian Tenor Israel Feigelson Sings Verdi's La Traviata with Riga Opera Soprano Elfrida Pakule (1956)

This is the LawPundit's personal family connection to opera.

(the video was uploaded to YouTube by fenterp to whom we are thankful)

Latvian tenor Israel Feigelson (1921-1991) in live excerpts from Verdi's "La Traviata" with Elfrida Pakule (6 February 1912 -- 31 December 1991), in 1956 singer and soloist of the Latvian Opera in Riga (coloratura soprano), plus a recital performance of the Count's Song from "Rigoletto" in 1977.

Elfrida Pakule was a sister first cousin of Emma Pakule, later Emma Kaulins, grandmother of Andis Kaulins, the owner of this blog.

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