July 9, 2012

Do you want your university to welcome the Google trike?

It's the Google Street View University Partners project, mapping the places where Google can't drive those cars that have been photographing streets all over the world all these years.
The company’s pitch to universities is that enabling anybody with an Internet connection to virtually stroll the grounds will help institutions satisfy the curiosity of prospective students, nostalgic alumni and helicopter parents....
And if universities say no, what does that mean? They're protecting privacy? But "Google uses algorithms to automatically blur faces and license plates, and also offers an online form where people can request that certain images be removed."
It would be “really stupid,” and probably unlikely, for Google to intentionally trawl campus networks for data under the auspices of the Street View University Partners program, says [Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and a prominent critic of Google], adding that universities face a more immediate data risk by outsourcing campus e-mail and other cloud services to Google. 
We're already trusting Google. What's the point of mistrusting it about lesser things?
“We’re not talking about a great data meltdown,” says Vaidhyanathan. “But we are talking about the possibility of a person being identifiable as part of a university community” -- a person who might be dealing with a stalker, and who might not know to make a takedown request until after it is too late. Those are things that we have to keep in mind when dealing with real human beings through these systems... Google tends not to think of real human beings, but people at universities have that responsibility."
Against the good of Google's Street View, how much weight would you give to the generic stalker? What about terrorists? Why doesn't Vaidhyanathan bring them up? My theory after the jump.

He's trying to influence university officials, who are on the left, mostly. They're susceptible to the violence-against-women set of arguments. If he were trying to influence people on the right, he'd deploy the terrorist bogeyman.

14 comments:

ndspinelli said...

Google Earth was invaluable for me as a PI. It allowed me to assess venues for surveillance and save my clients money. So, obviously it can be used for sinister purposes if I were a stalker, as can open records, webcams, etc. As I say when these controversies arise, "the genie is out of the bottle" and she's not going back in.

As for a university using the 2 pretexts. UW has a mutated Avian Flu virus, I would use the terrorist point if I were trying to block access.

The Drill SGT said...

I don't like Google and don't trust them much. However, University data is far more vulnerable to Red Chinese grad students locally, and the PLA hackers back home than anything Google might be doing.

Dante said...

Academia seems to be tilting more and more towards hiding information (for example Climate Change science in which data is locked up and not shared). I even saw a professor on a blogging heads diavlog who was discussing the merits of having two languages within English, with elite code words such that the proles would read it one way and the initiate in its true form.

Information is neutral. You either want a society that can adapt to it and survive with it, or you build a society that requires more layers of secrecy and lies. I'm a coward, but I would rather live in the UA flight 93 world.

edutcher said...

What Sarge said.

Anybody who knows what wardriving means can appreciate the fact that unfettered access to people who don't belong there can have all kinds of unsavory results.

Ann Althouse said...

We're already trusting Google.

Are we, really?

That "citizens of the world" dance they do doesn't inspire trust in a whole lot of people.

Christy said...

Who trusts Google? I hope I'm subverting them every time I mistype the verification image of someone's address.

That said, I confess to disappointment when Google Earth didn't have street views of the village in Romania from which my nephew is sending pics at $1.50 each. :(

Just because I like being nosy about my neighbors private business doesn't mean I want them to be nosy about mine. My nosiness is benign, don't you know.

Chip S. said...

Universities are probably concerned that GoogleCampus will reveal that there aren't nearly as many black students actually walking around campus as there appear to be in the official photos.

MadisonMan said...

We painted the house a new color 4 years ago, and google street maps still shows the old drab color.

Get with it google!

Kirk Parker said...

Chip S.,

Touche!

Dante said...

Here is another thought. The government is going to have all kinds of surveillance. I think imbalanced power corrupts. I want more power to the individual.

Sigivald said...

If any campus network can be "trawled" now by Google trikes, it's either a public-access known-insecure one and thus doesn't matter, or they're so staggeringly incompetent that I don't care.

If a university can't set up WPA2* for its notionally "secure" wireless network, I don't want to hear any complaints from them about network security.

(* The kerfuffle in question was about completely unsecured networks, and Google's mapping never attempted to break WEP security, but for any other purpose it's equivalent to unsecured.)

smarty said...

This information allows for the detailed planning of terrorist and military attacks against the US in ways that would be extremely expensive and risky for the bad guys otherwise. Compared to the marginal benefits of such detailed maps and views to the vain and lazy, they should not be allowed under national security rules. Until Clinton, satellite images for public purposes could not have better than 3 meter resolution, now you can pace off the distance from a front door to the nearest bushes.

Seeing as how we are exposing everything about ourselves and yet our enemies and enemy nations simply disallow such imaging (other than satellite view), I have to wonder if google is simply stupid or actually evil.

Dante said...

Here's a note by Eric Schmidt. If the guy's right, google may help to transform the lives of 1.4 billion people.

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/07/09/eric_schmidt_the_great_firewall_of_china_will_fall

Here is what I would like. I would like the deliberations of the Supreme court justices published. In fact, I would even prefer a brain scan that showed what they were actually thinking. If these people can affect the lives of so many people, isn't it fair that we understand what their decision process actually was? All of it.

Phil 3:14 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil 3:14 said...

First it was a car on the highways with a camera on top. Then it was that same car on your street. Now its a man on a tricycle rolling up the sidewalk.

Coming soon, a knock on the door...