Is Publicly Displaying Peoples' homes A Violation Of Any Rights?

Last night, while searching for a street using Google maps, I noticed a new feature. I haven’t used Google Maps in a couple of months, so I’m not sure how new it is. Any way, using Google Maps in my usual manner, it finds the street, places an icon to the searched street, and there is a new “live option.” Out of curiosity, I selected this feature. Lo and behold, the actual street was in first person perspective. Needless to say, I thought this was pretty cool. Since I am in the market to purchase another home, I got to see the front of the house I was searching for with out having to drive to it. I also got to check out the neighborhood which too was very convenient. Using the Satellite option, I got to check out the actual size of the backyard and objects with in it.

Again, intrigued with this new option I checked out my current home. Some where between then and checking out the prospective home. I became concerned that my home is not only publicly displayed when viewing the streets, but that the whole layout of the (front side of the) neighborhood is with in anyones grasp.

Now, I know that anyone can view my property and neighborhood just by driving to it.

But what concerns me the most, is that this is a very convenient tool for criminals. I know that most crimes are spontaneous, but not all. Burglars can now easily take a stroll down my street in the convenience of their own dwelling. Those who intend to commit premeditated crimes, can plan escape routes, hiding spots, with ease using this new feature and the aerial feature.

Now this “live option” is not exactly live. But it is very recent. I had a new driveway installed five months ago. So these images are sometime between then and when ever this new option was availabel. License plates of cars in the driveway have either been blotched out or the text is too small to read.

Am I going too extreme with this or what?

Is this not some sort of violation to privacy?

Anyone on a public street can take a photo of your house, provided he is not trespassing, period, just as anyone can take a picture of you in a public place.

Street view images probably aren’t detailed enough to assist criminals, because, as you point out, details of the house change over time, and it’s not like there is a view of the back of the house, nor is there a picture of Sparky the Doberman.

Actually, there is at least once case where street view helped find a kidnapped child. Police used the girl’s cell phone signal to triangulate her location, then used Google Maps to figure out which building she could be in within that area. She was recovered in a hotel.


I don’t have a killer cite for this other than my HS criminal justice class and the actions of millions of people all over, but in America, things in public view have no right to privacy. You can not have an expectation that some random person will not see something that’s out in the open.

I think there have been some prosecutions of photographers who climbed ladders to snap celebrities in their backyards, but the point was that with all the walls and hedges, there was an expectation of privacy, and the person was not out in “public”.

If they’re using a ladder to peek over walls, they’re most likely trespassing and thus subject to criminal action for that, in addition to civil action for invasion of privacy.

But as long as the photographer is in the street and not on your property, he can snap away.


Thanks for the answers!

MsRobyn, have you tried the option in Google Maps yet? Pretty detailed! But yes, Neighborhoods are subjected to change. But for now, my street looks just the same! :slight_smile:

It just happens that they’ve taken photos in your area recently. You may find that in five years the same photos are still being used.

So, let’s say I took a photo of someone’s front yard, and posted the shot on a website under the heading “Really Loathsome Landscaping”.

Would that be within the realm of fair use/commentary, or would someone have a good chance of winning a lawsuit for something (defamation of shrubbery, intentional infliction of distress, whatever)?

There’s been some lawsuits. I don’t know if anyone has ever won a judgement.

It’s not available in my town yet, but I have used it for other cities. It’s useful for finding buildings when you don’t know what they look like.


The picture is fair use. Normally commentary or criticism is also privileged.

There might be exceptional circumstances in which the loathsome landscaping is actually a showpiece for some landscaping firm and they accuse you of harm to their business. It shouldn’t be a problem, but their lawyers could undoubtedly find ways to make life expensive and uncomfortable for you.

Once you get into actual lawsuits, normal odds go out the window. After all, 99.999999% of all statements are never brought into court. The few that are become such anomalies that “should” stops having normal meaning.

As an aside, we noticed Obama’s block and the blocks surrounding were taken off of Street View–they used to be there. You can still get a detailed isometric perspective from Microsoft’s mapping service, though.

It seems you’re talking about Google Street View and Google Satellite. My house is on Street View, and it doesn’t give you any more information than you get just by walking by on the sidewalk, which is better resolution, and a closer look because Street View is from the street. So if I walk down the street and look at your house, is that a violation of some right?

As for Google Satellite, I don’t how you managed to discern objects in a back yard, unless they were very big, like a swimming pool. I tried it on my own house and couldn’t make out a thing. There could’ve been an orgy going on in the back yard and the imagine, zoomed in to the maximum, wouldn’t have enough resolution to tell.

That would depend on where you are. My hometown is covered by street view, but the satellite resolution is ridiculously bad – you can’t make out individual blocks, much less houses. But look at Chicago, for example, and you can easily make out individual vehicles and people.

By looking at Microsoft Maps Birdseye view (which is about at low helicopter altitude) I now know that two of my across the street neighbors only have partial fences in their backyards that open out to a greenbelt that can be crossed to get to another street. I now know that one of my neighbors has one of those glass sunrooms attached to the back of his house.

Oh yeah, I also now know that my grass is the brownest on my street and I now know that one of my neighbors has a trampoline, but yet never invites me over to jump on it- that bastard. I also now know that my wife, my nieghbor’s elderly girlfriend, and my neigbor’s one eyed landscaper were all home at the same time, hmmm, puzzling.

Fair use is an affirmative defense to copyright infringement. In other words, to claim fair use is to say “I have infringed upon your copyright, but my infringement is one approved by law.” There is no fair use here because there has been no infringement of a copyright.

Architecture can be copyrighted (only if completed since 1990), but not against pictorial representations, etc of the building. A photographer can take a picture of a building, and that photo is itself copyrighted, and the photographer owns the rights. There is no fair use, because the photo is yours to do with as you will. You couldn’t get fair use in someone else’s photo (This picture Alice took of Bob’s yard shows that Bob is a terrible landscaper) because you would not be commenting or criticizing the photo itself, only the subject of the photo.

Basically, if you or your house are viewable to the public, it’s fair game for anyone to photograph, except for a few cases like upskirts or peeping tom stuff. Houses, yards, etc have no protection.

I suppose you could try to make a case against the photographer for emotional damages, but the odds are pretty slim. The only realistic case you might have is if a landscaper took a pic of your yard and put it in an ad saying they did the landscaping – this might give rise to a claim under the right to publicity depending on the state.

But as for a solid claim, you don’t have any right to stop people from taking pictures of your house if it is visible to the public.

Yes, I applied “fair use” in the common sense not the technical sense.

However, my post was entirely about the words accompanying the picture in that example. The photographer is irrelevant to a claim of defamation. So is the picture itself. It’s the words that would matter. You omitted them entirely.

Would they be grounds for a successful suit? As I said, probably not. But rationality is not always - or often - present in suits.