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Woman Sues Google Over Street View Shots of Her Underwear 417

Posted by samzenpus
from the airing-your-clean-laundry dept.
Kittenman writes "The Telegraph (and several US locals) are covering a story about a Japanese woman who had her underwear on the line while the Google car went past. She is now suing Google: 'I was overwhelmed with anxiety that I might be the target of a sex crime,' the woman told a district court. 'It caused me to lose my job and I had to change my residence.'"

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Woman Sues Google Over Street View Shots of Her Underwear

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  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @12:51PM (#34629744)
    ... don't leave them in public view to begin with?
    • by MadAhab (40080) <slasherNO@SPAMahab.com> on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:19PM (#34630282) Homepage Journal

      Common sense is different in different cultures.

      In some places, common sense says you don't eat corn - it's for the animals stupid! How dare you serve it to me.

      In Japan, where streets are small and houses close, people are very used to not looking and not seeing things plainly visible from the street. It would be really rude to stare, and it isn't done.

      So yes, she does have a reasonable expectation of a kind of privacy that is expected in Japan, and which was violated by Google.

      • by clone52431 (1805862) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:23PM (#34630354)

        In Japan, where streets are small and houses close, people are very used to not looking and not seeing things plainly visible from the street. It would be really rude to stare, and it isn't done.

        If the fact that it’s airing up there visible for the world to see doesn’t mean that anybody should be staring at it, neither does the fact that it’s visible on Google Street View.

      • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:36PM (#34630564) Journal

        Even if we accept that point of view (and I'm really not sure that I agree), the next step is to examine the reasoning she gave to the court: "I was overwhelmed with anxiety that I might be the target of a sex crime". That makes no fucking sense. None whatsoever. She thinks that if someone sees a picture of bra on a washing line (which they could've seen while walking down the street), they're going to find and assault her?

        The only way that it makes any sense is in the context (as given by the article) of her mental illness: "The suit claims her existing obsessive-compulsive disorder was worsened by the anxiety brought on by the photo, as she feared that everything she was doing throughout the day was being secretly recorded.". Taking that into account, I do sympathise with her problems, but Google can't reasonably be held responsible for them.

        • That makes no fucking sense. None whatsoever.

          Agreed. Looks like opportunism to me.

        • by canajin56 (660655) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @07:05PM (#34635508)

          Google can't reasonably be held responsible for them.

          Most countries follow the "eggshell skull" rule. This rule states that a plaintiff in a tort is liable for the harm as it happened, not as they intended. The titular example is the person who shoves a fellow bar patron up against a wall, which due to his thin or "egghshell" skull (A medical condition) kills him. He is civilly responsible for that death, even though a minor shove up against a wall should not be expected to cause any lasting harm, let alone death. Because he was wrong to do it, so he must take responsibility for absolutely anything that happens because of that wrong doing. Another example would be throwing a PBJ sandwich at somebody, and they end up being allergic to peanuts. You didn't know, you thought it would just splat on their face and teach them a lesson, not potentially kill them. However, it was not the victims fault for not alerting you in advance.

          So, in this case, Google CAN be held responsible for the aggravation of this woman's mental condition. But only if they are first found to have wrongfully the picture in the first place. The eggshell skull rule simply says that IF you commit a tort, you are responsible for all harm that results, regardless of how exceptional that harm end up being due to circumstances unknown to you at the time. However, without the tort, there is no case. So, if I say to a woman with a mental illness "Good day, ma'am" and this triggers some sort of episode, I am not legally responsible, because a friendly greeting is not a tort. (In most jurisdictions I hope)

      • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:56PM (#34630922)

        Japan is where there are huge problems with men groping teenage girls on the train, to the point where there are "women only" cars now. And you're telling us that nobody in Japan would dare look at this woman's panties drying on a line?

      • In Japan you can buy even in 100 yen stores a very neat special covers for your laundry that you put over the hangers and voilá, women and girls can put they lingerie to dry in a balcony without worry about the prying eyes of the male neighbors. If this lady was truly worried about it she could have bought her laundry covers a long ago.

    • by guru312 (200260)
      Common sense says that if someone does not want to be seen, heard and read don't do any of it in a place viewable by the public. There is no expectation of privacy in public space in the US. I don't know Japanese laws. I made the mistake of photographing and video taping signs--from public space--erected by a woman who had a story to tell. I had five different criminal harassment charges place against me. It took lots of money and 15 months to have the charges dismissed. If you want to see: http://bernies [berniesayers.com]
    • by Eevee (535658) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @02:27PM (#34631488)
      Except they may not have been in public view to begin with. The Google car-mounted camera system is around 2.5 meters high...higher than a pedestrian or driver of a normal vehicle, so it's entirely possible that the location is not normally viewable from the street.
  • by Nailer235 (1822054) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @12:52PM (#34629762)
    It seems hard to imagine that the woman expected her delicates to stay completely private when she hung them up for the entire world to see.
    • by Rary (566291) * on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:01PM (#34629928)

      It seems hard to imagine that the woman expected her delicates to stay completely private when she hung them up for the entire world to see.

      This is the part that really stands out. What makes you think she hung them up "for the entire world to see"? I mean, what we have today is kind of a whole new level in the public vs. private continuum. There's "private". Then there's "public". But then there's "on the Internet", which is a whole different ball of wax.

      There is a shift that needs to happen in how we view things. Obviously, the moment you step out of a private residence, you can no longer expect privacy. But perhaps there is a reasonable expectation of something that falls somewhere between "private" and "on the Internet".

      • by enderjsv (1128541) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:07PM (#34630026)

        How would that even work? No. I think trying to somehow distinguish between regular public and internet public is kind of dumb. Here's a good rule of thumb. Live your public life as though everything you do will end up on the internet.

        • by mark-t (151149)
          I think it might be even wiser to live one's entire life, public and private, as though everything they do could potentially end up on the Internet, or otherwise much more publicly known than one would ever have expected or intended.
          • by DamonHD (794830)

            That's going to make for a very dull life. I don't want to be at any parties you're hosting on that basis!

            Rgds

            Damon

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          this point of view seems to be in vogue on slashdot recently, as a backlash against privacy nuts, but no-one ever explains what they mean by public, so the argument falls flat. Is a conversation between two people at a cafe private? What about a husband and wife arguing in the cafe? Common decency would mean that most of us would take pains to ignore that argument, despite it being in public, because it would be considered an intrusion to appear to be listening. And yet the ridiculous /. defi

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:08PM (#34630068) Homepage Journal

        There's "private". Then there's "public". But then there's "on the Internet", which is a whole different ball of wax.

        No, it isn't. "On the Internet" is where you should assume everything "public" will end up. Or put another way, you should always assune the whole world is watching anything you do in public. This was a good idea before the Internet, and it's a better idea now.

      • by clone52431 (1805862) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:10PM (#34630094)

        There's "private". Then there's "public". But then there's "on the Internet", which is a whole different ball of wax.

        Not for long. Get used to it... I don’t see the trend changing.

      • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:11PM (#34630122)

        There's "private". Then there's "public". But then there's "on the Internet", which is a whole different ball of wax.

        Not really. If something is in public view, it could simply be photographed and published anywhere - without permission. That's the nature of "in public view". There's nothing inherently different about it being "on the internet" in these cases.

        The lesson is, to co-opt a phrase, that people shouldn't air their clean laundry in public. :-)

      • If she hangs her washing outside, people will see it. The people who live near her have probably seen her laundry already, and nobody is going to go out of their way to visit her just because they saw some underwear on a washing line. It isn't even sexy underwear. Why should a rapist choose her over any of the other millions of women in Japan? It makes no sense.

        It makes me think she must be mentally ill, though it could just be a cultural thing. If she's been a victim of sex crimes in the past, however, her

        • It makes me think she must be mentally ill

          Did the fact that she's obsessive/compulsive tip you off?

        • Ah, TFA confirms she is mentally ill:

          The suit claims her existing obsessive-compulsive disorder was worsened by the anxiety brought on by the photo, as she feared that everything she was doing throughout the day was being secretly recorded.

          It's a real shame as OCD can be crippling, but I don't think she has any actual grounds to sue Google here.

      • There's "private". Then there's "public". But then there's "on the Internet", which is a whole different ball of wax.

        No. No it is not. This is the kind of thinking that our lawmakers are using "it is different if it involves a computer!" They are wrong, and so are you.

        Private is private, and public is public.

        That is not to say that there are not cultural differences... in small densely populated regions (like Japan) people have learned to ignore many "private" things that are going on right in front of them, because there is not enough space for it to be done in true privacy. But that is a cultural issue, and not a le

        • Indeed, there is a bit of a cultural difference here. First off having a dryer for your laundry is actually pretty rare so most people just put it outside to dry on a balcony or patio. Thus, seeing laundry out drying is actually part of the background and something that people ignore as it is considered "personal" (i.e. in public, but of a private nature) so I could see how someone could get embarrassed over having it on the internet.
        • No. No it is not. This is the kind of thinking that our lawmakers are using "it is different if it involves a computer!" They are wrong, and so are you.

          I think we need a patent on that.

          Public areas...on the internet!!

        • by Sancho (17056) *

          Lots of things are effectively self-governing until technology comes along which removes burdens to doing those things. Take police tailing people--affixing a GPS or using traffic cameras to follow the person means that tailing someone is almost free. Different courts have disagreed on whether GPS-tailing is a rights violation (if they don't break into your car to do it.) Before these technologies, there wasn't much question about the legality of police tracking your movements. Now that it's trivial to

        • by geekoid (135745)

          "Private is private, and public is public."

          Not true. Privacy is about circles of trust and access. It's not boolean. That's why it's complex.

          I have privacy with my wife. privacy with my lawyer, privacy with my doctor. Each one is a different circle and different levels by their nature.

          • by sgbett (739519)

            A fair point on the nature of privacy.

            I think public still remains pretty unilateral though.

        • there's a difference between the olden days when some random passer-by or a lone person with a camera might see or record your undies on the line.

          This is the 21st century , now we have hunter-killer blimps cruising around, taking pictures every five feet and recording everything for posterity. And to make matters worse, it all gets put into cyberspace where everbody with access to a computer will be looking at it and compulsively stroking one out like some sort of bloodshot-eyed gibbon in a Skinner
        • by Rary (566291) *

          No. No it is not. This is the kind of thinking that our lawmakers are using "it is different if it involves a computer!" They are wrong, and so are you.

          I expected a response similar to this. And, to be clear, I am not in any way advocating legislation here. Also, the fact that "it involves a computer" is irrelevant. What matters here is the fact that "public, but not on the Internet" means that a handful of people can and will see it, while "on the public Internet" means that potentially millions of people can and will see it.

          I'm talking entirely about culture here. I don't think that we should accept the idea that anything not securely locked up in a secr

      • by serutan (259622)

        There are already varying degrees of "public," for example a kid's artwork hanging on the wall in the school hallway is only semi-public, because access to the school is semi-controlled. But if something can be seen from the sidewalk, literally anyone in the entire world could walk by at any time and look at it, same as if it's on the Internet. I don't think your distinction between "public" and "on the Internet" makes sense.

      • by zero_out (1705074)

        This is the part that really stands out. What makes you think she hung them up "for the entire world to see"? I mean, what we have today is kind of a whole new level in the public vs. private continuum. There's "private". Then there's "public". But then there's "on the Internet", which is a whole different ball of wax.

        This is exceptionally insightful. It's the same sort of problem with putting "public records" online. That court document which has a person's SSN on it is a public record, but when you scan it into a database, and make it searchable online, that takes it to a whole new level, and becomes very dangerous. When I tell a new acquaintance my phone number in a public space, I expect that he will enter it into his cell phone, or write it down, and maybe a couple people will overhear it. I don't expect it to t

        • It doesn’t “become” dangerous. It just becomes more easily available.

          It’s just the same old argument.

          Something is patentable? Okay. New patent doing the same thing but “with a computer”? No, not patentable. Not innovative. Not new. Just an extension of what already existed: making it easier and available to more people.

          Something is a crime? Okay. New crime for the same thing but “with a computer”? No, not a new crime. Just the existing crime, done with a compu

      • It's called discretion, and no one knows what it is anymore.
  • by dragonhunter21 (1815102) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @12:52PM (#34629776) Journal

    Congragulations, miss. The entire readership of /. will now see your underwear.

    Well done.

  • So? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ThatMegathronDude (1189203) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @12:52PM (#34629780)
    She wasn't wearing them at the time, so who cares?
    • by Stele (9443)

      I can't stand the "this" meme but if ever there was a time to use it, I think "this" is it.

      • Re:So? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:06PM (#34630020) Journal

        It was never really meant as a meme but rather a quick way to convey your concurrence to a statement.

        Like the whole
        tl;dr = Too Long Didn't Read
        IANAL = I am not a Lawyer
        LoL = Laugh out Loud

        This = Indubitably my good sir! Your clever insight and concise conveyance of the subject matter at hand was quite enjoyable and I agree with your statement in every facet that one might be agreeable.

      • It isn't a meme, its just used incorrectly 95% of the time. When post A asks a question, expecting actual answers in the responses, and post B replies to post A with an actual answer, then it makes sense for post C to reply to post B with "this". I have no problem with it when it is used correctly, it just bothers me that people don't understand that it does actually make sense in a certain situation, and makes no sense in others.
    • by rs79 (71822)

      Yeah. If that half dead hooker in Spain passed out on the sidewalk doesn't care, why should she?

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      True, but this happened in Japan ...
    • If you consider Google to be the underpants gnomes it's obvious that she baited them to try and get a cut into their profit.

  • Ugh, this again? (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheCRAIGGERS (909877) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @12:55PM (#34629810)

    I understand not wanting pictures of your underwear online, but she didn't seem to have a problem hanging it in her front yard.

    In my eyes, any legitimacy she had was lost when she sued first instead of just asking to have it blurred or removed.

  • Mental Illness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @12:55PM (#34629820)

    'I was overwhelmed with anxiety that I might be the target of a sex crime,' the woman told a district court. 'It caused me to lose my job and I had to change my residence.'

    Even ignoring the fact that the woman's underwear was apparently visible from the street in the first place and it never bothered her. This reeks of unhealthy paranoia to me, is Google really responsible for one woman's mental issues? Granted, this thinking is exactly what the modern media creates, the idea that the world is filled with kidnappers, rapists, and violence. It's ironic that there are fewer murders than ever in US history, the kidnapping rate is lower than it was in 1940, and the overall violent crime rate sets new record lows every year (maybe not since the recession, but I haven't heard).

    • The suit claims her existing obsessive-compulsive disorder was worsened by the anxiety brought on by the photo, as she feared that everything she was doing throughout the day was being secretly recorded.

      This.

    • It strikes me as odd that a woman afraid if being the target of a sex crime would hang her underwear outside in the first place. It seems like her own action is the root cause rather than Google.

      Plus, I can't imagine someone stalking the house of someone who they've never seen because underwear was hung outside. Now if the image had her with her underwear, it could be more serious (Unless she's hideous)

    • Even ignoring the fact that the woman's underwear was apparently visible from the street in the first place ....

      That's not necessarily true. The cameras on a Google van are much higher than the average person. What is visible from the cam truck is much more than what is visible from standing in the street or on the sidewalk.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @12:56PM (#34629840)

    I know many people are saying that she should not have left them out to dry in public view. She made her mistake long before that.

    She is in Japan. She shouldn't have washed them in the first place; instead she could have sold them for a nice profit.

  • by DontLickJesus (1141027) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:01PM (#34629918) Homepage Journal
    I'm not aware of the laws outside the US, but that line is loaded. In the US, sexual harassment is the only crime that is judged by, not on the intention of the accused, but the perception of the accuser. There is the allowance for a measure of common sense when asking "would a reasonable, normal person be offended in this way" which is introduced, but no company is going through a sex crimes trial before settling. It just isn't happening. Can someone comment as to these laws in Japan?
  • by BeanThere (28381) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:07PM (#34630038)

    ... that she might miss out on a chance to sue a big company for a whole lot of money she doesn't deserve, by feigning distress. I'm sure nobody involved thinks it's anything other than BS, but they're probably hoping Google will settle.

  • Flapping her underwear around like a flag in public, tramp.
    Apparently she's all right with all the local boys eyeballing her dainties.
    But draws the line at some gaijin interweb pervert getting cheap thrills at her expense.

    Hey, this is Japan , we're talking about. Fukuoka, even.
  • Ha! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:17PM (#34630230) Homepage

    That'll teach her to air her dirty laundry in public!

    (N.B. This joke would actually be funny if the laundry actually was dirty)

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @01:32PM (#34630490)
    So far, everyone seems to be concluding that this woman is some sort of nut and/or lawsuit-happy money-grabber. Honestly, I agree with that given the evidence shown so far, but everyone deserves some level of defense.

    This woman is making at least one claim that can be tested - that she lost her job due to this. It would be rather simple to find out if this was the case - ask her ex-boss if he fired her over them, find out if she was shunned by coworkers over the images, etc. Most cases of people suing over trivialities involve less testable claims. As such, either she's not good at trolling the legal system, or she's got more of a case than we've assumed. After all, Japan is a much different culture than America or Europe - something like this could actually be a big deal over there. I honestly don't know. So, I'm going to wait for more info before making any sort of final judgement.
  • 'It caused me to lose my job and I had to change my residence.' "

    Because you know the details on Google Street View are just SO good that we could even tell you had underwear on the line. Shoot, TFA says that she lived in an apartment building. I mean, was there a pixilated blur in the background or something? And if she REALLY had a problem with this, all she had to do was file a complaint with Google. TFA actually says that Google had already replaced the image by the time she filed the lawsuit.

  • She says it caused her to lose her job, but the article fails to actually make the connection between the two. She didn't lose her job until after *SHE* discovered the photo, but there's a good chance that the photo had been there for quite some time before she noticed it... what, exactly, is her basis for presuming that the photo caused her to lose her job? Even if the existence of the photo is causally related to her losing her job, would it not be much more likely that it was her reaction to the photo
  • This is rediculous. Are all of the ladies who recognize themselves on upskirt.com going to sue them as well? Where do you draw the line?

    Sorry, my stance is this: If it's publicly viewable it's fair game. That's why I wear pants and dry my laundry in a clothes dryer.

  • I'm not saying I agree that she should win, but I have yet to see a comment in here that actually addresses the suit. It's being claimed that this woman has at least some degree of a mental condition. Seeing her undies on the web made her believe she was constantly being watched by someone. The duress that this caused is what she is suing over. At least make some arguments that actually pertain to the case.
  • by kumanopuusan (698669) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {cruonhguog}> on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @02:26PM (#34631472)

    Someone took a picture of her underwear and posted it on Google Streetview...

    Here's the original article. [mainichi.jp]

    From the original article in the Mainichi Shinbun, "It seems that someone posted the picture of her underwear on the internet.[...] She said, "If it had been an exterior view of the apartment that's understandable, but that a photo of my underwear drying on the veranda should appear is strange no matter how you look at it."

    Again, this isn't just a case of something weird showing up on Streetview, according to the woman in question. Her paranoia is a little more understandable considering that she claims someone took a picture of her underwear and went to the trouble of posting it where she would likely find it. Being concerned about harassment or stalking isn't completely unreasonable.

    Some other details that were left out of the English article include that the woman in question is from Fukuoka City in Fukuoka, that she's in her twenties, that she was fired from the hospital were she was working, that she lived alone at the time of the incident, that she found the photo this Spring, that she filed suit in November in Fukuoka District Court and that opening arguments were heard on December 15th. As of December 15th, Google was hurrying to verify the facts of the case.

    There was a 2channel thread about the story that referred to it as "MyPantyView," but unfortunately Slashdot's Japanese counterparts had no comment on the matter.

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