This morning I woke up to a piece on Radio 4 mentioning a Daily Mail piece about Google and Apple putting spy planes in the sky that would capture 10cm resolution images and be able to see into our homes. At least this piece was in the Science section and explored or (rehashed) the much discussed issues of privacy – however in the world of technophobes and DM readers this so called news (how long have Google been capturing aerial imagery?) was also top of a preposterous comment piece which starts
“Circling high above us, fleets of military-grade spy planes, hired by Apple and Google, peer through bathroom skylights and photograph every tiny detail of our homes…”
Time for a personal declaration – I dislike the Daily Mail and everything that it and it’s “Trust” owners stand for even more than the Murdoch empire. I know this is the kind of mock journalism that the DM thrives on so I shouldn’t get fired up by it (and to be honest I’m not) but the piece got me musing on why there is such a large audience out there (this was the online version) who are willing to believe the DM and are so keen to distrust Google or Apple?
No doubt several readers will point to walled gardens, masses of personal data accumulated by Google, Facebook et al, failures of security, “accidental” wifi sniffing and more. But government is in general much less competent at managing personal data let alone making good use of the data that it has collected, many lower tech companies also make a hash of these things including our banks, so why pick on Google and Apple?
Was it ignorance or deliberate omission that the DM article failed to mention that Ordnance Survey, Geoinformation Group, Astrium, GetMapping, COWI, Bluesky and Blom have all been capturing high resolution aerial imagery of the UK at regular intervals for the last decade? I hope that my mention of these companies’ “spy in the sky” activities doesn’t bring the wrath of the DM crashing down upon them. I guess none of these British based businesses have the consumer reach of Google or Apple and anyway it is more fun to bash colossal US businesses. Is it a particularly British thing to love to demonise large successful companies (particularly if they are not British)? I couldn’t find similar comment coming out of the US.
I think most people have a touch of the Frankenstein Syndrome, they are afraid of the stuff that they don’t understand (quite possibly with some justification) and they are understandably concerned that those promoting these technology changes have not fully thought through the long term implications – just like the passionate opposition to and fear of GM.
I don’t think these fears are justified, but who knows? What I am certain of, is that inaccurate, misinformed, sensationalist journalism is not the format for a reasoned discussion of the benefits and risks of making high quality imagery more widely available through Google and Apple.
UPDATE – the day after I wrote this post the Information Commissioner announced that it had written to Google requesting further information on the Streetview wifi sniffing incident