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Senator raises concern over Apple, Google mapping 'spy planes'

post #1 of 67
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U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Monday wrote a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google expressing his concern with next-generation mapping technologies the two companies are employing, saying that the information gathered by highly-sensitive imaging equipment could lead to inadvertent privacy breaches and even aid in terrorism.

Although Sen. Schumer didn't use the phrase "spy planes" in his letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Google CEO Larry Page, a press release issued on the senator's website regarding the matter did mention the term and described the two company's efforts as utilizing "military-grade" hardware.

The senator noted that, while services like Google Maps have in the past used satellite imagery, the new imaging technology allows for resolution of up to 4 inches. While Sen. Schumer is referring to high-resolution photographic equipment, at least one of the assets Apple acquired in developing the new iOS Maps app, a mapping company called C3 Technologies that was once part of Saab AB's defense arm, does use once-classified military targeting tech to achieve impressively realistic interactive maps.

?Barbequing or sunbathing in your backyard shouldn?t be a public event. People should be free from the worry of some high-tech peeping Tom technology violating one?s privacy when in your own home,? Sen. Schumer said. ?High resolution 3D mapping may have some very useful and practical applications, but the technology that is reported to be used by these companies brings a level of precision that has never before been utilized for public purposes. It raises important privacy questions and individuals have a right to know when their homes and communities are being mapped ? and whether highly detailed images of them and their homes will wind up published online. By using powerful cameras that can see through your windows and display details of sensitive security sites, Apple and Google will have access to private and sensitive images. It?s imperative that these companies disclose their plans for protecting privacy of both individuals and sensitive infrastructure, their publication intentions, and their plans for including public consent in the mapping process.?

Apple announced its new proprietary Maps app for iOS last week finally putting a cap on rumors that the company was ready to launch a product that combined the technology of over two years worth of mapping company acquisitions. Google beat the iPhone maker to the punch and revealed their own 3D mapping software upgrade earlier in June.

Maps
Apple's new Maps app will debut in iOS 6.


While the world's militaries rely on satellite imagery that is highly-restricted, Google's system gets by with digital overlays of photographic models taken from planes the company owns. Apple's "Flyover" tech uses a similar system that renders 3D recreations in real time.

The letter in full:
Dear Apple and Google,

I write today over the recent revelations that your companies are using highly sensitive photography equipment to take pictures of cities and towns across the country for your respective mapping products. These disclosures are potentially troubling, and I request that the privacy and security of Americans remain your top priority as you deploy new mapping and imaging capability.

It has been reported that some of these sensitive cameras can take pictures of objects up to four inches wide. I fear that this clarity may allow your mapping programs to take detailed pictures of people in intimate locations such as around a pool or in someone?s backyard. People on Long Island or in Buffalo have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they decide to have a barbeque on their back deck and would prefer to retain the option of deciding whether they should be photographed on their property. They should not fear that your planes will be overhead taking detailed pictures of their private events.

Detailed photographs could also provide criminals and terrorists with detailed views of sensitive utilities. On current online maps, many power lines, power sub stations, and reservoir access points are visible only at low resolutions. However, if highly detailed images become available, criminals could create more complete schematic maps of the power and water grids in the United States. With the vast amount of infrastructure across the country, it would be impossible to secure every location.

Therefore, I request that your mapping programs include three separate privacy and security provisions:

1) Provide notification to communities as to when you plan to conduct mapping

2) Automatically blur photos of individuals who are captured, and give property owners the right to opt-out of having the company map their homes

3) Put protocols in place with law enforcement and local municipalities to ensure that sensitive infrastructure details are blurred from published maps

I hope that you would be willing to work with my office on this very important issue and ensure the security and privacy of all Americans.

Apple and Google have yet to respond, though likely precautions may be akin to those seen in Google's Street View which blurs out license plates and other imagery deemed sensitive in nature.

?We must strike the proper balance between privacy and technology,? Sen. Schumer said. ?And while the use of this technology may well have very functional and important uses, we need to make sure that reasonable protections are in place to protect individuals and the public.?
post #2 of 67

Schumer is such a tool.

post #3 of 67
Time for the Geofencing Opt Out Bill

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post #4 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by verucabong View Post

Schumer is such a tool.


One of the biggest in the shed.

post #5 of 67

I'm also hearing concerns that we're thinking about banning 'fire' and 'electricity' for being able to create 'light'.

 

Technically that's an invasion of privacy for those in the dark...

Pot is legal in North Korea.
That explains a considerable amount.

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Pot is legal in North Korea.
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post #6 of 67

I thought it was a very cordial and common-sense letter. While I don't think it's going to be much of an issue, I can see some people getting very upset if they are caught nekid in there backyard. The use of hi-res satellite imagery could aide terrorist, but again, they could get that information elsewhere. Either way, it's good to think about these types of things and something that government should be thinking about.

post #7 of 67

How is this any different from satellite images in Google Earth? You don't even know a plane is flying overhead when that happens! And this is pretty much for cities only, not secret government installations in the middle of nowhere.

post #8 of 67

But not so concerned about the government and law enforcement flying spy drones over the US?

post #9 of 67
Are there even any human beings, or even animals showing on Apple's map?
post #10 of 67
Should they give bald guys with really bad hair plugs the option to opt out? Chuck, Joe, what do you guys think?
post #11 of 67
Wow where do dorks like schuemer come from? The us military and CIA have had technology better than this for years and he's worried about pictures from air planes?
Current weather satellites can read the name on a pack of smokes from 150 miles up and military satellites are 100 times more sofisticated than they are. The us government can keyhole or move them for surveillance any time they want to. There is not one square inch of this planet that has not been phtographed or filmed lol. Anyone who worries about map apps on phones with 3d vector graphics is soap boxing or grandstanding just to garner himself attention because of his own personal fear of becoming irrelevent
post #12 of 67
Only the government can spy on you with satellites and UAVs. How dare private companies collect geo data for commercial use. Let's insinuate that they're aiding the terrorists.

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post #13 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIZZARD View Post

But not so concerned about the government and law enforcement flying spy drones over the US?

+1

Seriously, they should have bigger fish to fry. Illegal immigration, tax reform, insider trading, Afghanistan, our shite educational system and any other manner of things that actually matter.

post #14 of 67

Schumer is gifted at spotting publicity opps - such bull - every NY station with give it high ranking in the news, play up the terrorism aspect

post #15 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mechanic View Post

Wow where do dorks like schuemer come from? The us military and CIA have had technology better than this for years and he's worried about pictures from air planes?
Current weather satellites can read the name on a pack of smokes from 150 miles up and military satellites are 100 times more sofisticated than they are. The us government can keyhole or move them for surveillance any time they want to. There is not one square inch of this planet that has not been phtographed or filmed lol. Anyone who worries about map apps on phones with 3d vector graphics is soap boxing or grandstanding just to garner himself attention because of his own personal fear of becoming irrelevent

While the CIA may have detailed images like what Apple is offering, those images aren't available to every thief or terrorist. I don't want people to see the layout of my backyard or the path through the woods, or the snipper positions on local government offices.

post #16 of 67

If you can walk by a building and take a pic...then you can fly a plane over a building and take a pic...cmon now.

post #17 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by MadGoat View Post

While the CIA may have detailed images like what Apple is offering, those images aren't available to every thief or terrorist. I don't want people to see the layout of my backyard or the path through the woods, or the snipper positions on local government offices.

If peeps were that interested in your back yard they'd rent a helicopter and fly over the stupid thing...puh-leeze.

post #18 of 67

I hear that wearing a tinfoil hat makes one invisible to such mapping initiatives.

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post #19 of 67

It’s been rumored that intelligence services can read newsprint from their satellites.

 

Tell us when your employer is capturing images, Mr. Schumer, and Apple and Google will be happy to follow suit.

 

post #20 of 67

"Military-grade spy plane" -- more likely they use a Cessna.

 

 

I wonder why is he so concerned about Google and Apple being able to see things as small as 4 inches? lol.gif

post #21 of 67

Meanwhile, government approved Drones criss-cross the Nation!

/

/

/

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post #22 of 67

He’s right: this level of photographic details of our homes and yards has NEVER been seen in an online service before. Other than Street View, I mean....

 

Regardless, it does need to be evaluated, and corporations can’t always be left to “just control themselves” out of the goodness of their employees’ hearts.

post #23 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by verucabong View Post

Schumer is such a tool.

 

+1

post #24 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orlando View Post

"Military-grade spy plane" -- more likely they use a Cessna.

 

 

I wonder why is he so concerned about Google and Apple being able to see things as small as 4 inches? lol.gif

Clearly he's no Anthony Weiner

post #25 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mechanic View Post

Wow where do dorks like schuemer come from? The us military and CIA have had technology better than this for years and he's worried about pictures from air planes?
Current weather satellites can read the name on a pack of smokes from 150 miles up and military satellites are 100 times more sofisticated than they are. The us government can keyhole or move them for surveillance any time they want to. There is not one square inch of this planet that has not been phtographed or filmed lol. Anyone who worries about map apps on phones with 3d vector graphics is soap boxing or grandstanding just to garner himself attention because of his own personal fear of becoming irrelevent

The general public doesn't have access to those images.
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post #26 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by fishstick_kitty View Post

If you can walk by a building and take a pic...then you can fly a plane over a building and take a pic...cmon now.

The front of a building can be seen by anyone walking by, what's going on in your yard is much more private.
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post #27 of 67

Exactly.  Government drones are getting more and more plentiful and what the people have to fear is not google and Apple but the extent to which the government is invading privacy.

post #28 of 67

Yeah, because Microsoft hasn't been doing this for the last 5+ years with Live Earth (or whatever it's called.)

What a f*ing moron.

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post #29 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

He’s right: this level of photographic details of our homes and yards has NEVER been seen in an online service before. Other than Street View, I mean....

 

but is it now. Have we seen proof that Flyover includes private neighborhoods. And if it does that Apple doesn't remove cars, people etc as a matter of procedure. 

 

Until it is confirmed what is and isn't in the app, this is just a PR move. iOS 6 will release and none of this 'troublesome' stuff will be in there and he'll take care for it despite the fact that it is very possible that Apple was never including. 

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post #30 of 67
What he really needs to do is STFU, already terrorist are LTAO with all the bullshit The US is making the people do.
post #31 of 67

And before the drones, the US had blimps photographing citizens.  Plus, there are cameras on all of the new traffic lights, not to catch speeders, but to track you.

post #32 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkichline View Post

I thought it was a very cordial and common-sense letter. While I don't think it's going to be much of an issue, I can see some people getting very upset if they are caught nekid in there backyard. The use of hi-res satellite imagery could aide terrorist, but again, they could get that information elsewhere. Either way, it's good to think about these types of things and something that government should be thinking about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

He’s right: this level of photographic details of our homes and yards has NEVER been seen in an online service before. Other than Street View, I mean....

Regardless, it does need to be evaluated, and corporations can’t always be left to “just control themselves” out of the goodness of their employees’ hearts.

Actually, he's just plain wrong.

Legally, the issue about photographing someone in a public place has been well documented. If you are outdoors, there is generally no expectation of privacy (with a few exceptions). The law has been well established and affirmed all the way to the Supreme Court.

Now, if Apple and Google are doing something against the law (as in violating one of the exceptions to the above principle), then they should be punished. But asking them to not photograph public places because some senator wants to buy votes doesn't make sense. They have a right to do anything that the law allows. If you want to put a stop to it, change the law - you're in the Senate.

Oh, I guess that's it. The Senate doesn't want to change the law. It's a backdoor attempt to accomplish something that the Senate doesn't agree with. Pound sand.
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post #33 of 67

I'm sorry, but honestly… Americans…

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post #34 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by einsteinbqat View Post

I'm sorry, but honestly… Americans…

Heaven forbid we want our freedoms protected. lol.gif

That's really what it boils down to, despite boneheaded moves by the people in charge in protecting said freedoms.
post #35 of 67

Really Senator,

I feel like most of the others in that the government has a lot more important things to worry about rather than whether we are giving "terrorists" an inside look at what they could just as easily see on the evening news. Nobody cares if you're having a bar-b-que, what your deck looks like, or what kind of car you drive. The problem with the government is that they stick there nose in so many places it doesn't belong and messes everything up for those of us who actually have to make a living in this country. I'm for privacy but if I don't want you to see it, I won't take it outside in the daylight for the "spy planes" to see. I don't need you help or your input, Mr. Senator.

post #36 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

Clearly he's no Anthony Weiner

+1.

post #37 of 67

Chuck Schumer is a dangerously stupid person.

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post #38 of 67

The last person to pitch a fit over this issue was Dick Cheney. The Daily Show had a field day with it.

 

So Chuck Schumer is on the same page as Cheney? Does not compute.

post #39 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkichline View Post

I thought it was a very cordial and common-sense letter. While I don't think it's going to be much of an issue, I can see some people getting very upset if they are caught nekid in there backyard. The use of hi-res satellite imagery could aide terrorist, but again, they could get that information elsewhere. Either way, it's good to think about these types of things and something that government should be thinking about.

There's a point where we can't let concerns of possible terrorist use upend legitimate use.

I think that Apple or Google would remove naked people if they find any in their photos. I wonder how much that happens, I've not seen any nudists while I was in the air.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

The front of a building can be seen by anyone walking by, what's going on in your yard is much more private.

I don't think there is a legal construct of that kind of individual privacy outside of a building like that. Having taken quite a few aerial photographs just for personal interest, and not having caught anything scandalous yet (but I'm not really trying either), I think it's a somewhat dubious concern.
post #40 of 67

Shouldn't this guy be doing something important like raising concerns about photos taken in public, you MIGHT get other people in your photos, thus invading their privacy.  **** he's not even a SHARP tool.

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