Can't Even Urinate In His Own Yard Anymore

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

While some people were fretting over Google's new “privacy” policy that took effect March 1—“Calling this a ‘privacy policy’ is Orwellian doublespeak,” said John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog—others were counting the Google AdSense dollars from their blogs, hoping that Google could collect more user data so that ads would generate more revenues. Ka-ching. Just then, an insidious and at once funny information-age issue erupted in France, or more precisely in a tiny village in Maine-et-Loire.

A guy was minding his own business in his yard.... He was, well, urinating, but the gate was closed. There must have been something appealing about it. Or maybe he was just too lazy to go inside or whatever. However, we know that he was doing it because a Google Street-View vehicle drove by, and its rooftop camera that was mounted on a post could see over the gate and caught the hapless but otherwise relieved guy in flagrante delicto.

But he didn't know it, and he still didn't know it when the scene appeared on Street View—the photo, though slightly blurred, showed him in his yard, relieving himself. His neighbors discovered the photo, and it was only as he was becoming the laughingstock of his village that he learned about it, according to his lawyer, who’d filed a lawsuit against Google, demanding the immediate removal of the photo and €10,000 ($13,000) in damages. "My client doesn’t do this for money, he just wants his privacy respected," the lawyer said.

It might be hard to feel sorry for this guy—as a commenter wrote: “Before, he was the laughingstock of his village; but thanks to his legal action and his lawyer, he has become the laughingstock of all of France.” But it’s one more example of how privacy, even in our own yard—and for whatever silly reason we may desire it—has become a quaint concept of the past.

Big-city folks have long gotten used to video surveillance cameras on sidewalks and inside buildings. Drivers are routinely filmed crossing red lights, an expensive event. The newest reincarnations are systems that study consumer behavior in stores. Customers with smart phones can even be identified. At the Safeway down the street, there is a small sign in the wine aisles telling you that you’re on video—that your cumbersome decision making process will be recorded for further study. Did you read the text on the back of the bottle? Did you agonize for 30 minutes? What was your facial expression when you saw that this fine wine didn't come from France but from, um, China? Oh man. Read.... Merde! Chinese Wines Did What to French Wines?

Then there are the run-of-the-mill data breaches. They happen even at institutions that are supposed to be technically sophisticated. NASA for example. It spends $1.5 billion on IT and $58 million on IT security annually, according to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin’s testimony before Congress last week. And yet, in 2010 and 2011, NASA discovered 5,408 incidences involving installation of malicious software and unauthorized access by a wide variety of hackers, including organized crime and foreign intelligence. In 2011 alone, it experienced 13 breaches, some of which could compromise US national security.

Occasionally, breaches become personal. A few years ago, the business school where I received my MBA an eternity ago—a sophisticated large institution—notified me that my personal data including my social security number had been pilfered. It added that my data had also been pilfered in a similar security breach a few years earlier.

In the information age, personal information has a monetary value. So it’s being collected, stored, stolen, and sold. Smartphones have become the most effective means of grabbing user information. Unlike the internet that still offers users some anonymity if they’re careful, smartphones are tied to the user’s identity. So, how far will all this go? All the way. Because that’s where the money is.

Among all products in the world, user information is unique. We hand it over for free. It can be sold from the same inventory millions of times without running out. There are practically no storage costs, and no handling and shipping expenses. It doesn’t rot or mildew or rust. User information is simply the best product ever invented—and yet, there is Friendster. Read.... The Value of Information in the Information Age.

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boiltherich's picture

The problem here is not that some elder gent in France who happens to have a bladder and a penis and was doing what those organs both require us to do, in the privacy of his own garden, which 99% of us agree is absolutely the very foundation of our rights as people, but the intrusion of a corporate giant with neither brain or liability who is by the sheer weight of it's wealth and power the offended party.

It was bad when they required us to wear uncomfortable clothing in order to satisfy the overly delicate sensitivity of a few, it is impossible when we can't take a leak in our own yard because mobile cameras on poles might be watching. 

They guys ONLY mistake was suing for $13 grand, if they had done this to me I would have sued for 13 million.

q99x2's picture

If it was a kid the US could have come after Google for publishing child pornography. I sense more than a few job opportunities at Google for editors and programers of human recognition algos. Dogs and cats are probably not a problem.

skipjack's picture

Just so's y'all know, your piss is full of nitrogen, so it's very good for plants lol.

Sudden Debt's picture

I sometimes take a leak in my yard to. Am I a weirdo now to?


scrumpox's picture

I'll stop when they take it from my cold dead hand.

Irish66's picture

Its the only way to get rid of the moles

Peter Pan's picture

Eventually we will be required to have cameras in our home connected to Uncle Sam for 24 hour surveillance. At the very least TV will become a two way medium.

Imagine if those tapes then become available on you tube.

I think we are going to see a FUKUSHIMA of surveillance technology sooner or later.

AnAnonymous's picture

It is possible but not the way it is described.

If it happens, it will be through popular will.

That US citizen big bad government story is just a story.

Usually, in US citizen societies, government demands reflect the popular will's demand.

So, some consumers will accept to have a two way street TV medium (check Kinect for example) because they can monetize one way, selling their privacy against monies.

Dont prevent them, it is a free country and they own, so they can do.

As this business model will bring cash over the others, alignment is going to happen. More and more providers will offer to monetize your living room privacy as they need to keep up with the competition (competition process)

The reluctant people will be depicted as cave people who do not understand progress (the myth of progress as brought by US citizenism)If you listened to them, you will still be a hand shaker when greeting people.
Texting people two yards from you to welcome them is so better.

As US citizenism is all about freedom, the reluctant will be offered a fair choice: love or leave it, submit or suicide. If they do not agree with the rules, they just have not to join the scene.
Because, in the end, (with a libertarian's voice), nobody forces (emphasis tone on here) them to use use TVs, smart phones, computers, the Internet etc... All the reluctant could as well not use them, be responsible or something.

As it will grow more and more a profitable business, the government, counselled the most convincing way, that is through bribes, by private interests, will shape some kind of laws to regulate a fair usage of home cam privacy, offering protection to the weak through'privacy' with free privacy hour zoning while allowing the entrepreneurial innovators so typical to US citizen populations and their pride, to develop their talents and make money out of their humanitarian enhancing projects, all the best of humanity progress. Giant leaps for humankind to come.

This is US citizenism.

This is the US world order.

Forget the big bad government. The government is a tool for US citizens to push their popular will. Nothing more.
There is no discontinuity between the US citizen elite and its US citizen base.

Ghordius's picture

yes, you definitely need to make longer posts to get your points across - this was one I finally understood and I can even agree on some parts.

one thing, though: "There is no discontinuity between the US citizen elite and its US citizen base"

there are two discontinuities

1. between "red America's citizen base" and the "blue America's citizen elite", followed by the one 

2. between "blue America's citizen base" and the "red America's citizen elite"

and those discontinuities make the "US citizens" blind to the fact that it is the popular will that is pushing some of the more hated agenda points.

to put it more simply: culture wars

AnAnonymous's picture

Ummmm, yes,

but isnt the red team elite supposed to be the elite of the red team base? The blue team elite the blue team base?

Just wondering, because in these cases, it means that there is no discontinuity between a US citizen base and its elite.

non_anon's picture

one of my fav. escape arrest vids

They say he is Clinically Insane.... Man Escapes Cops Trying to Arrest Him

resurger's picture

This is just sad

ClassicalLib17's picture

Back in 2004,  I walked into my son's high school where he was taking his SAT's and when I got to the entry doors to his wing, I found a list taped to the glass doors that listed each students name that was there to take the test along with their social security number.  I went to the principal's office to inquire about why they would publicly post the social security numbers along with the students name and they didn't provide an adequate explanation as to why they would do this, but they would remove the information from the entry doors.  And these are the people we entrust to teach our children?  I was FUCKING PISSED!  It didn't matter to them at all.  This nation is OCCUPIED by a bunch of poorly educated elitists that have only one goal;  to turn our children into them!

connda's picture

I live in Thailand and it's pretty commonplace to see guys taking a piss whereever.  Driving down the road and you get the urge, pull over and water the flowers -- no one blinks, no one cares.

It use to be that way in Europe too when I was a kid.  If you had to relieve yourself, you did.

Nowadays, you get caught emptying your bladder in public, you end up on a sex offender registry. 

Conclusion:  The more advanced a society is the more modest that society becomes -- which goes to prove that modesty is a social disease.

Bruin4's picture

It used to be that way in NYC too....

cherry picker's picture

Between Google, Microsoft and Facebook, the three did a better job of spying and infiltrating privacy than the KGB in the old USSR could ever do.

If we lament the loss of our freedom, these corporate lackeys to big bro are the ones to blame.

AldousHuxley's picture

because KGB and CIA forgot what really that free t-shirt for credit card application scam.


Do you wonder why Obama comes to see Zuckerberg everytime he visits San Francisco? Give Feds unlimited access to worldwide facebook profiles while Obama will arrange with Federal Reserve to turn on the printers when Facebook goes IPO.

Indrid Cold's picture

Google comes down my (long) driveway with one of those fucking "street view" cars, and I'm gonna disable the camera with a load of double-ought buckshot.  

They'll be a trespassin', and we don't cotton to that up here where I live.  

Sorry y'all urban cowboys can't do the same.



ClassicalLib17's picture

Heavily armed here, I C.  I am with you

HungrySeagull's picture

We are a private road and they too will be engaged.

Don't worry they already got their shots.

I used to look over old city maps showing every person or family name that lived in which house and what business if a company did.

That is the hard way to do it. Google makes it way too easy... and sometimes exposes people to the world.

I don't like it. I use Duckduckgo myself.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Is it okay to pee in your yard in France?  Oui.

DevilsPrinciple's picture

Hells bells, they use the gutters of the Champs Elysee as a pissoir.

A Lunatic's picture

Hmmmmm. When I go around video taping my neighborhood the fucking cops show up............

gwar5's picture

I know a guy who uses psuedonyms for all his device activities and service billings. There is another one always ready for the occassions where personal information is requested by marketers, who then pester his former wife's divorce lawyer or some such.

Seems I recently read somewhere that Google and are developing the concept of "Digital DNA" which are patterns designed to track and identify anyone no matter what device or IP they may be using. We are creatures of habit. Your Digital DNA is your unique pattern of searches, numbers you call, and internet activities. Change in your patterns may be deemed a "suspicious" activity.

Old School NSA is already coupling you with GPS of your car and phone, smart utility meters, credit card purchases, and your favorite porn sites, etc.


Kassandra's picture

It's the trickle down effect...

Buck Johnson's picture

Eventually we won't be able to use our Social Security numbers because of all the breaches and stolen identities.  It wasn't supposed to have been used in this way long time ago, but the govt. decided that it would be okay.

non_anon's picture

and sadly we let them do it.

non_anon's picture

ha ha, I remember being in Olongopo, Phillippines and seeing a naked boy standing on a mound of dirt and pissing freely into the street without a care in the world.

hairball48's picture

We were riding in a Jeepney(SpChk) outside Po Town one day in 1970 and drove by a guy peeing along side of the road. He waved to the driver. Nobody thinks too much about it. Americans are the ones who are weird when it comes to sex and bodily functions.

When we pulled into a little town some 20 miles from Olongopo, some cute girls were showering naked under a rain downspout in front of OUR hotel. I knew we had found heaven then :)

hbjork1's picture

I guess it is considerd a normal activity for a long time.

When you gotta go, yor gotta go.

I wonder if they sell concrete copies for the yard.


lincolnsteffens's picture

I was staying on a tiny Polynesian island in a tiny village. Around dusk my host who was renting me a room walked a few feet into the ocean and took a leak. This was right in the center of the village. I asked him why he went in the ocean instead of his toilet which was as close to us as the ocean. His simple and appropriate answer  was "I live here. This is my home".

I think if Google had spied on me and the town was laughing at me, I would laugh right along with them. I would keep laughing longer than any one of them especially if I got a cash settlement from Google for violating my right to expect privacy within my own fenced in yard. Besides if they used my photo for commercial purposes without a waiver I think I might have a case.

Blue Horshoe Loves Annacott Steel's picture

That was a Janet Jackson hit, btw.

"We all live in the Urination"

apberusdisvet's picture

It must be raining; OR

are we really getting pissed on?

or fucked over?

Time to piss and fuck back.

Blue Horshoe Loves Annacott Steel's picture

It appears Google & all these companies are urinating on their clients.

That is making people "pissed off"...because they're being "pissed on".

We all live in a Urine Nation (Urination?).

Pee humor.

Lost My Shorts's picture

Google should be required to alert people when its camera is coming around.  College towns would be especially interesting -- more moons than Jupiter to be sure.  It would be like the new Facebook wall -- you could stand out there holding your cute dog, or an Obama poster, or your kid's mug shots, or whatever statement you want to make.

HardwoodAg's picture

Geez, I really do live in Maine. I mark my territory (saves water) And I ain't got a fence.

May the gods of Google drown on yellow snow.

Ps.....Don't fuckin laughat the vid, it's still cold heyuh.....

mick_richfield's picture

Write "Google This" in the snow in six foot tall letters.  ( You may need friends to help with this. )

Downtoolong's picture

There must have been something appealing about it.

I once owned a cabin in Tahoe that sat on a steep hill,  like many of them do. I used to love going out at night before I went to bed (even in winter) and taking a piss off the upper deck to the ground three stories below. I was always amused by the fact that the manzanita shrubs seemed to grow best in that spot. My absolute favorite times were when a full moon was out lighting up the lake and sky in  the distance. Today, I'd probably be concerened that some Google van would drive by with an infra red camera.

hardcleareye's picture

That was just waaaaaay to much

ThisIsBob's picture

Google is an evil, information sucking giant vampire squid.

overbet's picture

Goog invest in company 23Andme. Dna testing whos founder Anne Wojcicki is married to Google founder Sergey Brin. They want to know everything.

Bringin It's picture

Business Plan

Have disease sufferers self identify and receive a swab in the mail and "to contribute to the cure".  They swab their inner cheek to leave a DNA sample, answer some background questions and mail it all back "to contribute to the cure". 

But there is no cure.  Just a very valuable, but inexpensively created data base.

Zappalives's picture

Couldnt have said it any better!


This eye in the sky shit is unamerican to its core.


Where does this shit end..........thermal images THRU THE WALLS of you fucking your wife?



Bruin4's picture

Google is evil BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SOON TO BE RELEASED DRONES OVER THE SKIES OF THE US?  Will they be sponsored by google?

blindfaith's picture



They have been up there for almost two years already.  Say HI.

PeaceLover's picture

They didn't start out that way.. money the root.. or where they always that way

If your using face book for anything your a ______I don't need to call you anything fill in the blank.

some that come to mind


And Google new privacy double speak..
Good guy gone bad.. who cares about the users.. Lets get the big money like Facebook move.

Is everyone one over 1,000,000 a year a selfish all about me screw humanity creep?