Views of Your Email from the Street

Google Street View vehicles traveled the world collecting private digital data from behind the curtains and doors of private homes and businesses.

Google Street Views around Lake Champlain
Vermont & New York, USA
Street views are available for the routes in blue
(click here for larger image)

After successfully launching an effort to capture street views from around the globe, Google is saying that it accidentally also captured information that included Wi-Fi passwords and email. Google says it didn’t mean to capture this information and that it did nothing illegal. Google is not evil, right? But how does one launch such a huge and expensive effort and not know all its bells and whistles? Wouldn’t that have been part of the pitch? How does one make a mistake like this, yet within the strict lines of the law? How do the engineers at Google, the best in the world, not discover this “mistake” until it is pointed out to them?

Google Street View Status of Investigations, June 18, 2010
(click here for larger image)

Part of the premise of Google Street Views is that it only shows (and captures) what any person “walking down the street” would see – it merely captures and distributes what is already on public view. Digital images of physical “public spaces” are digitally distributed to a wider public. Now we know more, aside from making what was public more public, Google Street View vehicles traveled the world collecting private digital data from behind the curtains and doors of private homes and businesses. Those cute little buggies with ostrich-necked cameras don’t seem so cute anymore.

If you give Google the benefit of the doubt that they are not interested in violating privacy laws, this question persists: What did they stand to gain from gathering private information from private spaces if it wasn’t to make it public?


“States Ready Joint Probe of Google Data Collection,” The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2010

Edward Burtynsky Photographs on view at the Shelburne Museum

Three Gorges Dam, by Edward Burtynsky 2005

Ansel Adams and Edward Burtynksky: Constructed Landscapes
Jun 19 – Oct 24

I am a great admirer of Edward Burtynsky’s work, so I was thrilled to discover that the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont is showing his photographs in the exhibition “Constructed Landscapes.”  (It is the perfect first entry for the new Studio Ju Ju blog). Burtynsky explores places where humans have dramatically altered the natural landscape. His photographs are beautiful while they present almost unfathomable destruction.

Vermont residents and visitors can’t help but look at Vermont’s picturesque landscapes with reverence. Burtynsky’s photographs, while they depict destruction, can evoke the same kind of awe, raising an array of interesting questions about our relationship to the landscape in 2010. To add poignancy to the viewing experience, the exhibition also includes photographs by Ansel Adams from a time when the American relationship to the landscape was perhaps, quite different.

There is a powerful documentary that chronicles Burtynsky’s work in China. I highly recommend  Manufactured Landscapes. It is available through Netflix.

Below is the Shelburne Museum’s write-up about the show. See you there!

Constructed Landscapes is Shelburne Museum’s first exhibition of modern and contemporary photography. The exhibit features over 60 photographs by Ansel Adams (1902-1984), one of the most influential and popular landscape photographers in history and Edward Burtynsky (b. 1955), a contemporary photographer whose images of “manufactured landscapes” such as mines, railway cuts and dams have brought him considerable acclaim in the past decade.

The exhibit explores concepts of the natural world, wilderness and how carefully crafted images can lead the viewer to specific conclusions and ultimately shape public perception about land use, natural resources and beauty.

Burtynsky and Adams are in stark juxtaposition in Constructed Landscapes. Ansel Adams’ classic and pristine black and white images of undisturbed nature contrast with Burtynsky’s stunning color prints of landscapes altered by man, including quarries in Vermont.

More on the exhibition Ansel Adams and Edward Burtynksky: Constructed Landscapes