The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Someone to Watch Over Me . . .
A couple of years ago, as soon as Google’s Street View application was introduced, it generated worldwide controversy. Ground-level photographic images, shot from cameras mounted on cars were, critics complained, a violation of privacy. Some Street View pictures collected in 2007 by Wired.com, for example, showed incidents and events that some of the people depicted, I’m guessing, would rather not be recorded or seen. By 2008, after people in cities around the world (where most of the pictures are made) kept complaining, Google introduced face-blurring technology, to respond to growing public concern and to avoid running afoul of privacy rights laws on the books in various countries and locales. Case closed. Sort of. In mid-June, according to a recent CBS.com news story, Dutch police arrested twin brothers who, last September, knocked a 14-year-old boy off his bike in Groningen, then took his cell phone and a couple of hundred bucks from him, too (A lot of money for a kid to be carrying, right?). The thieves got away, but this past March, as the victim was looking at images on Google Street Views he came across a photograph of him and his assailants taken only moments before they accosted him. Because all faces in the image were blurred, the local police contacted Google, and an unblurred version of the image was made available to them, the first instance of Google being used to solve a crime in the Netherlands. A local detective immediately recognized one of the two assailants (I guess they’re fraternal twins . . .) and prosecutors are deciding whether to press charges.