Under the Sun
Latest ogle via Google service a bit too creepy
SAY you're a first-time visitor at the Pali lookout, unaware that an intense current of air pushes through the gap.
The wind hoists your loose-fitting sundress skyward, revealing underwear or the lack thereof. You quickly pull down the skirt, relieved that just a few people witnessed the unintended display, your embarrassment temporary.
Now let's add another element.
Say at that moment, a person paid to take pictures of the tourist attraction for a Web site snaps a photo of the vista. The photographer doesn't notice you're in the background and the shot is posted on the site. Then some creepy Web crawler spies your revelatory instant, zooms in, copies it to post on another site or to send to other mouth-breathers to gape over.
Suddenly, your fleeting embarrassment becomes forever, a permanent, humiliating image drifting through the ether.
Can't happen? The sundress incident is real; I saw it. As to a photo? Who knows if anyone captured the flighty dress and the woman's distress, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility what with almost everyone armed with cellphones and cameras, digitally and capaciously equipped to negate the need to take pictures with some selectivity.
A photo need not even be titillating to seize freaky attention. Ask the high school athlete whose photo in regulation track uniform dragged her into Internet torment. Accompanied by juvenile sexual remarks, the picture was posted by a blogger, attracting like-minded knuckleheads who put up their own lewd comments.
The athlete has since been plagued by e-come-ons and e-ogling, cruelly warped into a Barbie-doll fantasy muse for the locker-room set. I hesitate to add more specifics for fear of alerting unaware creeps, but that's probably a block in vain.
It takes just a few clues to access private lives these days. Don't get me wrong; I'm not that much of a Luddite to deny the value of the Internet. I'd be unable to do my job or communicate with the ease I've become used to.
But the pace of technological development has eclipsed propriety. Previous measures of privacy no longer apply when information dealers can serve up almost anything someone might want to know about another person without consideration of the objective, benign or otherwise.
There's no arbiter. I don't know if there should be one or if one can be assigned without stifling free flow of information.
Still, every new service stirs up some discomfort. The latest, Google's Street View, posts pictures of neighborhoods in five cities with more to come. The notion is to give people views of buildings, homes, parks and business districts for various purposes, like whether a restaurant looks nice enough to patronize.
Google says there's no invasion of privacy since the photos are "no different from what any person can readily capture and see walking down the street." But there's a big difference between that "any person" viewing the street on a computer screen and a person actually being on the street -- also in public -- while looking. And I doubt that the public streets where Google's bosses and owners live will ever be posted.
Google says it will yank pictures that clearly identify individuals if they object, but as the student athlete has discovered, once an image is out there, it's out there.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org