“Is My Laptop A Viable Tool To Invade Your Privacy?â€â€”Such and Other Critical Legal Issues Generated By Google Earth

Debadyuti Banerjee

Abstract


One of the latest technologies to create a controversy is Google Earth, Google’s Satellite Imaging technology. It is a useful educational, entertainment and navigational tool, but countries like Australia, China, India, etc have expressed concern about privacy and surveillance issues especially in the context of increased terrorism and state secrets being exposed to the general populace. Developed countries like the USA, UK and other European countries have not until now shown any interest in stringent action against Google as the current level of technology does not cause great concern as to what it does and where that technology is going. The option open to aggrieved nations are either to approach the US Government to ask its regulators to crack down or approach the United Nations on the basis of the Principles Relating to Remote Sensing adopted in 1986, which states that space imagery “shall not be conducted in such a manner detrimental to the legitimate rights and interests of the sensed [satellite scanned] stateâ€. A number of legal issues would arise regarding at what point geospatial information becomes personal information. In this light, this paper would analyze how far a technology of the calibre of Google Earth can affect the lives and liberties of an ordinary citizen. Though cases like Alan Boring v. Google, Smith v. Abandoned Ship, Kiryat Yam v. Google have been filed, they have not been very definitive in the arena. So the author will look at the principles of Tort law like Trespass (Hinman v. Pacific Air Transport), Nuisance (Brandes v. Mitterling), Strict Products Liability for inaccuracies in the program (Brocklesby v. United States) and Intellectual Property Rights (Skyline Software Systems, Inc. v. Keyhole, Inc.) to analyze probable issues and suggest plausible solutions to this conundrum within the existing international legal framework. In doing so, the doctrinal method shall be used and the author will study the various case laws, documents and state reactions to formulate the answers to the issues raised in this paper.


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JICLT is a member of the Directory of Open-Access Journals (www.doaj.org). ISSN: 1901-8401.