Hats off to the proud British residents of the village of Broughton who took to the streets last week to stop the Google Street View van taking photographs of their houses. As one resident said, "we don't want people looking down our drives and at our houses". "We are fighting", said another, "for the age-old tradition that an Englishman's home is his castle".
But what kind of tradition is this? The idea that a person can do what he or she wants within their home and that they are guaranteed security and privacy has never existed. You cannot commit murder in your own home, nor can you emit noise pollution late at night. You cannot store stolen birds' eggs, beat your dog or download illegally copied music. You cannot build whatever type of home extension you choose, erect a tall fence and sell alcohol to your neighbours.
The concept of an Englishman's home being his castle (note the gender specific sub-text) is a seventeenth century conception with doubtful legal validity. What the citizens of Broughton are trying to do is to extend this dubious precept to cover the road, street or highway outside. If these people manage to stop the Google Street View Camera today, then they will no doubt try and stop me walking down the street and taking a photograph tomorrow.
The Street View camera has not been down my street yet. If Google would like to let me know when it is due I will go out into the street and welcome them. I will make the driver a cup of tea and invite them to take whatever photographs they please. In the meantime, here is a photograph of our house that I would like to share with the good citizens of Broughton.