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Officials Use Google Earth To Find Unlicensed Pools

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the eye-in-the-sky dept.

Google 650

Officials in Riverhead, New York are using Google Earth to root out the owners of unlicensed pools. So far they've found 250 illegal pools and collected $75,000 in fines and fees. Of course not everyone thinks that a city should be spending time looking at aerial pictures of backyards. from the article: "Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC, said Google Earth was promoted as an aid to curious travelers but has become a tool for cash-hungry local governments. 'The technology is going so far ahead of what people think is possible, and there is too little discussion about community norms,' she said."

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They collected $75,000... (4, Insightful)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 4 years ago | (#33126194)

but how much did it cost?

Re:They collected $75,000... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126254)

Liberals don't generally think about return on investment...

Re:They collected $75,000... (-1, Troll)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 4 years ago | (#33126434)

Liberals don't generally think about return on investment...

Like when they started the Iraq war?

Re:They collected $75,000... (2, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 4 years ago | (#33126500) actually have to get a freakin' license for a swimming pool on your own property?!?!?

Wow..never heard that one before.

What's next, having to apply for a license to own a fscking charcoal grill on your own patio?

Re:They collected $75,000... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126586)

Yes, just like you have to get a permit to build a shed, or floor over a previously open loft area. It's called "zoning and planing" and it's been around for quite some time.

Re:They collected $75,000... (1, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | about 4 years ago | (#33126644)

Just like every other permanent construction in a municipality, you gotta have your permits and licenses and everything else in order.

It just goes with the modern view of freedom and property rights in America: my right to the value of my house trumps everyone else's right to do what they please with their property. If everyone in my neighborhood had a better swimming pool than me, my home's value would suffer. That's why we have homeowner associations, zoning laws and so on.

Re:They collected $75,000... (3, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33126660)

Yes, you generally have to get a permit from the city in order to put in a pool. This isn't anything new nor is it some obscure thing. It's a pretty typical part of city zoning ordinances.

Re:They collected $75,000... (5, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 4 years ago | (#33126724)

A swimming pool is a massive adjustment to the landscape, involving excavation multiple feet down. You don't know what pipes or wires might be down there. And what if you're on a hill and it breaks because it wasn't properly made, causing a landslide?

Note, by the way, in the BODY of the article, the word 'license' never shows up. Instead they use variations on 'permit' which sounds much more logical. If you want a pool, you get an inspector, they ensure there's no rogue wiring or geographic problems, they tell the city, then you get your zone permitted to install a pool.

Re:They collected $75,000... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 4 years ago | (#33126780)

Technically, it's a permit, not a license. And just like you need to get a permit when you add a room onto your house, some localities require a permit for pools. While everyone sees it as a way to make money, the permit does have specific safety requirements about fencing the pool, suction inlets, and has to be signed off by an electrician.

Given the number of pool deaths that happen in my area (seems like 3 - 6 every summer), it sounds like reasonable requirements.

This permit is only required for pools deeper than 24", so your kids wading pool that you bought from Walmart isn't going to need a permit, but if you want to put up a 3 foot deep above ground pool, you'll have to get a permit and follow the regulations on fencing, etc.

Re:They collected $75,000... (-1, Troll)

Surt (22457) | about 4 years ago | (#33126690)

I'm finding it hard to imagine the liberal who would think it was a good idea to license pools and fine people for having them. We believe in freedom. You're thinking of conservatives, who like to decide who can do what with their back yards, and generally like to stick their noses in other people's business.

Re:They collected $75,000... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126712)

Welcome to doucheville - population: you.

Re:They collected $75,000... (2, Insightful)

somaTh (1154199) | about 4 years ago | (#33126290)

Well, Google Earth is free, so just the time spent staring at the satellite imagery. But, compare that to the time to driving around trying to find them, and I think it's pretty obvious that the cost is neglible.

Re:They collected $75,000... (0, Redundant)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 4 years ago | (#33126328)

...Google Earth is free...

Government employees are not.

Re:They collected $75,000... (1)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | about 4 years ago | (#33126456)

Right, which is why he followed up with:

so just the time spent staring at the satellite imagery

and then compared it to the time the same enforcement would cost if Google Earth wasn't being used.

Re:They collected $75,000... (2, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 4 years ago | (#33126714)

No, I think he meant the licenses for government employees. I don't think you're allowed to use the free Google Earth if you're a government employee using it for official business. Seem to remember seeing that in the eula, but could be wrong.

Re:They collected $75,000... (2, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 4 years ago | (#33126504)

They're not that expensive though. Comparably, government employees typically have salaries a good bit below that in the private sector. The benefits (health insurance for example) and retirement plans are much better though. We've still got lifetime pension plans after 28 years where I'm at.

If you dedicated 1 person to this, my bet is they'll probably be bringing in more in recouped fees than they cost annually. Not to mention that like all things government, you have to have some level of enforcement, even if it costs a bit more than you recoup, because if you DIDN'T enforce the rules at all, then many more people would not pay.

It's like property tax seizure sales. If you owe enough back taxes on property, we'll seize it and sell it. We do this with all real property and mobile homes. Sometimes we get older mobile homes that we seize but they won't even sell (people generally don't want a 15+ year mobile home for any price), so they end up sitting and rotting or getting hauled off to the dump if someone else buys the land that they sit on. It's a bit odd to think that we seized a home due to failure to pay taxes just to destroy it or throw it away, but that's the current law, and if it's not enforced then even the people with higher valued properties won't follow it either.

Re:They collected $75,000... (1, Informative)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#33126664)

Comparably, government employees typically have salaries a good bit below that in the private sector.

A common myth [] that public sector employees believe so that they don't feel bad about agitating for automatic raises.

Re:They collected $75,000... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126746)

That MSPaint-created graph on some random Blogspot page is just so incredibly well-cited.

Re:They collected $75,000... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126598)

Actually, the Google Earth license is only free for non-commercial/non-government use. They are legally required to purchase Google Earth Pro. I know, we just went through a major license audit at the state agency I work for.

So, did they buy a license or has something changed in the past few months?

Re:They collected $75,000... (1)

Dr.Merkwurdigeliebe (1055918) | about 4 years ago | (#33126312)

They were already employing those gov't employees anyways, I bet, so the cost was already there. At least now they're starting to get some revenue. I bet this started out as one employee bored on Google Earth one afternoon ...

Re:They collected $75,000... (1)

dougmc (70836) | about 4 years ago | (#33126336)

but how much did it cost?

Probably very little -- one guy, spending a few days to go through the entire town in a grid via Google.

Once you have a list of offenders, you send them a nasty letter. If you're not sure that something is a pool, you could fly a plane over or just ask to look, but you could stick to the nasty letters -- anybody who is innocent will certainly let you know.

It's a nice cash grab and costs almost nothing. Nasty, yes, and does nothing to improve safety or anything along those lines, but it did make some money.

Re:They collected $75,000... (2, Insightful)

rhsanborn (773855) | about 4 years ago | (#33126470)

It likely is a safety issue. I know I'm taking a leap here, but I'm assuming the license requires the homeowner to purchase a permit to install the pool, which should have been inspected. Builders in any line who don't use permits aren't neccssarily putting their employees and clients at risk, but there is a reason we have a permit and inspection process, because some builders do. And those who have decided to skirt this process are undermining the process as a whole.

Re:They collected $75,000... (2, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 4 years ago | (#33126684)

I think a lot of the pool permit/safety issues deal less with the safety of the builder's employees and more with general safety of the pool like the pool has to be surrounded by a fence of certain height with a self locking door so neighbor's toddlers can't chase a ball over and fall in while playing in the backyard, proper wiring of any lighting/circulation systems in the pool ect.

Re:They collected $75,000... (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | about 4 years ago | (#33126790)

The big one is having the pool area enclosed and secured so wandering children don't drown. Public Health also takes an interest to ensure the water in the pool is tested. A license is probably the most reasonable way to ensure the pool is compliant. A building permit would simply not do it as the structural condition of the pool is not the main concern.

Should have got planning permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126196)

' nuff said.

They broke the law, and were caught by better technology. They should have played by the book, planning laws are there for a reason, bad developments can have a really bad effect on neighbours, wildlife, etc.

Re:Should have got planning permission (1)

burris (122191) | about 4 years ago | (#33126268)

Would it have been legal or acceptable for the planning commission to drive around with a stepladder and peek over fences to find unlicensed pools?

Re:Should have got planning permission (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 4 years ago | (#33126784)

Only if they blurred out their faces first and made it real grainy. Old still overhead imagery isn't exactly the same thing as real-time close-up side-view. And in any case, how are they supposed to verify zoning? Voluntary reporting?

Re:Should have got planning permission (2, Interesting)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#33126330)

I'm sure most of those people hired a contractor to come in and put the pools in. The homeowner didn't follow up to make sure that all of the proper permits and licenses were filed and paid for and probably naively thought that the contractor would take of it.

In other words, I bet that very few of those folks built those pools and intentionally tried to get away without paying.

Re:Should have got planning permission (3, Interesting)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | about 4 years ago | (#33126592)

To someone who's got enough money to pay a contractor to install a pool in their backyard, a $300 fine is probably the right amount to not be prohibitively expensive but still make them think about their choice of contractor the next time they hire one.

Re:Should have got planning permission (1)

socz (1057222) | about 4 years ago | (#33126778)

Not according to the comments on the page:

rosarymaker 4 people liked this.

Yeah, I'm tired of gov't fees, taxes, and licenses to do anything. If I can lose my property because I don't pay taxes on it, it means I never owned it to begin with. The gov't does. Isn't the USA supposed to be property-based? Why does the lady who cuts my hair have to have license to do so? Why do I have to have permits to build on my own property? Oh, yeah. We covered that one. The property belongs to the gov't, and I have to give them money for the privilege of improving their property at my expense.

RAPTOR 3 people liked this.

Yet ONE more example of the liberty-crushing intrusion of statism and those who profit from it. Technology, always a two-edged sword, is giving government at all levels a greater capacity for mischief. The demoncrat and RINO scum on Capitol Hill of course need to be flushed out after a good bleaching and scrubbing on November 2nd. Do not forget, though, that liberty can be lost just as easily to state and local governments. Statists, regardless the level of government they infest, need to be expunged whenever possible. The hour is late. Pray it isn't too late.

Whosurdaddy 3 people liked this.

We pay the gov officials salaries and they fine us for it. I'm thinking of the time I visited Paris and you could easily jump of the Eiffel tower first story. Why aren't there more jumpers? Cuz people aren't idiots. There should be free pool inspections by local officials for safety. They get paid to do a public service not for making people try to avoid paying fees

Personalspace 3 people liked this.

carl hit it on the head. i dont need to pay someone other than my installer. does the township come and sweep the pool or maintain it? then stay out of my personal business.

Community norms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126206)

...would be following local rules/laws, and getting permits as you're supposed to.

I have no problem with Google Earth being used in this way - it's public information.

Re:Community norms... (1)

spamking (967666) | about 4 years ago | (#33126318)

What if they used it for increasing your property taxes?

Re:Community norms... (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 4 years ago | (#33126490)

How does that change anything? An aerial photo of a city is still public information, right? They already do fly-overs with helicopters looking for building footprints that don't match the zoning.

Re:Community norms... (2, Insightful)

tsalmark (1265778) | about 4 years ago | (#33126532)

They are not using it to increase taxes, but to find people that are not paying their fair share. Whether you agree with the taxation or not is totally different than enforcing a level playing field.

Re:Community norms... (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | about 4 years ago | (#33126776)

I have no problem with Google Earth being used in this way - it's public information.

Like 5+ year old information, most times.
What if I bought a house a year ago, and that gaping hole of a pools been filled in before I bought it?
It's not as if google earth is in any way shape or form realtime. I mean, the house I sold in January shows the backyard of 2 owners ago on Google Earth.

New phrase for me (1)

tverbeek (457094) | about 4 years ago | (#33126228)

I find the phrase "unlicensed pool" a little... disturbing.

Re:New phrase for me (1)

ckthorp (1255134) | about 4 years ago | (#33126320)

I find it to be a good euphemism for the gene pool...

Re:New phrase for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126322)

Pool's closed due to licensing

Re:New phrase for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126340)

Your kind isn't welcome here on The Huffingt... I mean Slashdot.

Around here we love Big Brother.

Re:New phrase for me (0, Offtopic)

snookerhog (1835110) | about 4 years ago | (#33126558)

reminds me of this episode [] of the young ones where Vyvyan eats the TV in order to avoid paying the fine for not having a license.

drinking the pool might be easier than eating the tele

Re:New phrase for me (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 4 years ago | (#33126626)

It's probably more "unpermitted" than "unlicensed". In most places, a pool, just like sheds, carports, or any other structure on the property, will add value. Added value means added taxes. Permits are typically the means by which a city/county/etc identify and add new structures to the tax roll.

If they didn't get the permits, then it's a minor violation. Not sure how the jurisdiction in question handles it, but we will charge the double permit fees on the structure plus any taxes that would have been paid since its construction. It also has to pass inspections, which in extreme (though rare) cases may require that it be torn down if the problems can't be rectified (such as a bad foundation). Pools aren't heavily inspected in our area though. That would apply moreso to an unpermitted home or other large structure.

Re:New phrase for me (1)

Loco3KGT (141999) | about 4 years ago | (#33126662)

I would assume it's less about being "licensed" and more about meeting code and having your plans approved by the city council and having your house reappraised to accommodate the increase in value (and thus increase in taxes).

Re:New phrase for me (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33126734)

Is this the first time you've ever heard of zoning laws?

Re:New phrase for me (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 4 years ago | (#33126760)

It's like building any other structure, there's codes and standards it needs to be built to in order to be safe. Unfortunately a lot of those have resulted from lawsuits along the lines of little kids being able to wander over and fall in from the neighbors backyard. Plus anytime you have water and electricity in such close vacinity (pool lighting/circulation) it's a good idea to make sure the builder is making it up to code.

Re:New phrase for me (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 4 years ago | (#33126812)

Yeah, specially since 'license' is not used in the body of the article. Instead they use variations on 'permit.'

Misleading, inflammitory headline; a pool license is bogus. A permit to build a pool is standard fare.

Oh, wait, I just saw the favicon...that explains it.

Pool? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126240)

That's my unlicensed nuclear reactor cooling tank, you insensitive clod!

Community Norms... (1)

niro5 (1081199) | about 4 years ago | (#33126244)

Like what, paying your taxes?

This is an appropriate use. (5, Insightful)

molo (94384) | about 4 years ago | (#33126248)

It is the government office saving money instead of hiring a plane to fly over the neighborhood and take pictures. Or are you going to say that you have a right to privacy from the air? Get real. A $300 fine ($75,000 / 250) doesn't sound excessive for a permit violation either. Now all those pools also need to be inspected for possible code violations. That is where it might get expensive.


Re:This is an appropriate use. (5, Insightful)

Mastadex (576985) | about 4 years ago | (#33126298)

I agree. They are essentially DOING THEIR JOB but with the added efficiency of Google Earth. I don't see a problem here.

Re:This is an appropriate use. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126448)

Their job is to snoop into people's backyards, huh? Well, gee, I guess if they're being "efficient" about it then it's okay.

Re:This is an appropriate use. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 4 years ago | (#33126756)

Well, just remember to not bath naked in your pool when the satellite crosses :-)

Re:This is an appropriate use. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33126758)

How can it be snooping when it's public information?

Re:This is an appropriate use. (1)

Programmer_In_Traini (566499) | about 4 years ago | (#33126732)


Evil but legal.

Re:This is an appropriate use. (1)

snookerhog (1835110) | about 4 years ago | (#33126384)

Also, since they are unlicensed they are probably not reported to the insurance company either.

It won't be long before the insurance companies are using this same technique to spot pools, trampolines and other unreported liabilities.

Reminds me of Adam Smith (3, Interesting)

langelgjm (860756) | about 4 years ago | (#33126518)

This story reminds me of Adam Smith's reasoning of why properties in his time should have been taxed based on the number of windows, rather than hearths: both for privacy reasons (you can count windows from the outside, whereas hearths require entering the home) and to make evasion harder. When tax assessment time came around, people would brick up their hearths. Sure, you could brick up windows, but since they could be observed any time without you knowing, it makes it much harder to do.

But yeah, maybe we have a problem with the fact that the pool requires a permit, but that's a different issue. Hopefully sitting in an office using Google Earth means they're not driving around wasting gas, or hiring a plane as you mentioned.

Re:This is an appropriate use. (1)

pclminion (145572) | about 4 years ago | (#33126708)

Or are you going to say that you have a right to privacy from the air? Get real.

I most certainly do think I have a right to privacy "from the air." The concept is called curtilage and it means the space around your residence where you have a legal expectation of privacy. Just having a fence which is high enough to stop people from looking into your yard is enough to make your yard curtilage. The government is barred from unwarranted searches and seizures within this area. Just because they are flying in an airplane doesn't change anything. These activities are completely unconstitutional and the fines should be reversed.

It's terrifying how the citizens of this country seem to don't know what the hell their rights are.

TOS? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | about 4 years ago | (#33126252)

Can somebody look up the Google Earth TOS and see if there’s anything in it that would be relevant to this sort of use?

I’d do it myself but I’m a bit busy at the moment.

Re:TOS? (4, Funny)

Loco3KGT (141999) | about 4 years ago | (#33126634)

busy filling out the paperwork to get your (already built) pool approved by the city council?

Re:TOS? (2, Informative)

in10se (472253) | about 4 years ago | (#33126654) []
3(a) defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others;
3(e) upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any other content, message, or communication prohibited by applicable law, the Terms or any applicable Product policies or guidelines;

4(b) By using the Products, you do not receive any, and Google and/or its licensors and users retain all ownership rights in the Content. You may not use, access or allow others to use or access the Content in any manner not permitted under the Terms, unless you have been specifically permitted to do so by Google or by the owner of that Content, in a separate agreement.
4(c) Certain Content is provided under license from third parties, including but not limited to Tele Atlas B.V. ("Tele Atlas"), and is subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights owned by or licensed to Tele Atlas and/or such third parties. You may be held liable for any unauthorized copying or disclosure of this Content. Your use of Tele Atlas Content, including but not limited to printing or use in marketing or promotional materials, is subject to additional restrictions located in the Legal Notices page. []
3.2(b)Protection from Public Disclosure. If you are an agency, department, or other entity of any State government, the United States Government or any other public entity or funded in whole or in part by the United States Government, then you hereby agree to protect the Licensed Content from public disclosure and to consider the Licensed Content exempt from any statute, law, regulation, or code, including any Sunshine Act, Public Records Act, Freedom of Information Act, or equivalent, which permits public access and/or reproduction or use of the Licensed Content. If such exemption is challenged under any such laws, this license agreement will be considered breached and any and all right to retain any copies or to use of the Licensed Content will be terminated and considered immediately null and void. Any copies of the Licensed Content held by you will immediately be destroyed. If any court of competent jurisdiction considers this clause void and unenforceable, in whole or in part, for any reason, this license agreement will be considered terminated and null and void, in its entirety, and any and all copies of the Licensed Content will immediately be destroyed.
3.3Additional Restrictions on Use of Municipal Boundaries. Tele Atlas Licensed Content containing municipal boundaries must not be used to create or derive applications that are used for the purpose of tariff or tax rate determination for a particular address or range of addresses.

Educational (1)

NF6X (725054) | about 4 years ago | (#33126262)

This sort of thing may stimulate a wider interest in practical application of camouflage techniques.

Re:Educational (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 4 years ago | (#33126738)

This sort of thing may stimulate a wider interest in practical application of camouflage techniques.

"Ah... It's not a swimming pool. It's a reflecting pool. I checked the rules. There's no rule against putting in a reflecting pool. It's very tranquil. You'd like it."

Re:Educational (1)

NF6X (725054) | about 4 years ago | (#33126834)

"So, why is it eight feet deep?"

"Uh... for deep reflection?"


Illegal Search? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126266)

If I put up a fence to protect my privacy and the town uses 'spy satellites' to invade it without a warrant, doesn't that make the search illegal?

Re:Illegal Search? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126622)

What kind of retard are you? When did looking over a fence from a public place become an illegal search?

Re:Illegal Search? (1)

Faylone (880739) | about 4 years ago | (#33126706)

Why should it be if the image can be taken without intruding on, or even in the space over, your property? If you want privacy from above, put a covering blocking the view from above.

Re:Illegal Search? (1)

dasherjan (1485895) | about 4 years ago | (#33126740)

I don't think so. Because it could be said that anyone flying in a plane or even in a 2 story building could see into your yard (assuming standard privacy fence size). Now if you built an enclosure, or even an awning(sp?), and they sent in robot badgers to check things out. I that would be an illegal search. :0)


Google Maps used to justify speeding tickets (2, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | about 4 years ago | (#33126272)

A few years ago I was in a speeding ticket dispute (that I eventually won) where the traffic court was using Google Maps' Satellite View in order to count the number of mailboxes along the road to determine the number of houses on the road, and therefore to determine if the area was "densely populated" and therefore qualified for a lower unposted speed limit.

Re:Google Maps used to justify speeding tickets (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | about 4 years ago | (#33126588)

So did you win because it was an unposted speed limit or because they used Google Maps?

Oh no... (3, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 4 years ago | (#33126288)

...the government caught me in the act of doing something illegal using public information that's been available for years now! Bad Big Brother!

Permits are hard to get around here to do anything though. Which sucks. But if you choose to break the law, you should be aware of the potential consequences and the chance of getting caught. Given the public images of homes it should not be too surprising that something like this would happen eventually.

Just Business as Usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126292)

How is this any different from the town building inspector cruising around town looking for any construction projects without permits on file? Is the overhead view somehow off-limits to use for enforcing the rules? Would it be different if the imagery came from a government-owned UAV/RPA or even just a guy with a camera in a rented helicopter?

Interesting (3, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 4 years ago | (#33126300)

While not Google Earth, as a county government we look at our own aerial photos (added to a GIS layer) to find unpermitted structures as well (mostly just to get them on the tax books - if someone builds without a permit we often have no idea that the structure exists, so it goes untaxed).

While I'm sure it's a LONG ways off, at a recent conference I was at one of the larger city-level governments in the state was actually discussing the possibility of using a form of sonar to track this. I'm not sure if they're just in the brainstorming phase or what, but from what he said the idea was to use it to map out the structures in the city at periodic intervals. Then between intervals you compare to the previous sweep to see anything large that's been added or removed. You filter that against what parcels have not had a permit issued, and you get a good source of info to start following up on construction without permits.

The same city had recently installed various microphones in spots around the city to auto-alert the police department when it detected gunfire (this is already in place, not conceptual). Apparently it is fine tuned enough to be able to tell the difference between an actual gun and things like fireworks and the like.

Re:Interesting (1)

spamking (967666) | about 4 years ago | (#33126482)

While not Google Earth, as a county government we look at our own aerial photos (added to a GIS layer) to find unpermitted structures as well (mostly just to get them on the tax books - if someone builds without a permit we often have no idea that the structure exists, so it goes untaxed).

I've never understood this. I paid taxes on the materials when I built it . . . why must I continue to pay property taxes on it?

I get paying taxes on a home, but on an external garage or shed? That seems just a little excessive.

Re:Interesting (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 4 years ago | (#33126696)

Taxes on the materials typically go to the state - or at least most of them (we get 1 cents sales tax to use for road improvements for example, but that's very limited funds, and it's earmarked for a specific purpose). Taxes on the property after construction are typically billed at the local level.

Don't get me wrong it would be easier if income was just flat taxed for everything the government needs to function, but as it is, each level takes it money out at different steps along the way.

Re:Interesting (1)

easterberry (1826250) | about 4 years ago | (#33126698)

the external shed/garage is part of the "home". Everything on the property adds or removes from the value of it and therefore how much it is taxed. You pay tax on the property not the house.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126808)

Your newly built piece of structure presumably added value to your property. As such, the tax man wants to ensure you're paying your taxes according to the new value.

Re:Interesting (1)

cynyr (703126) | about 4 years ago | (#33126838)

because it's "property tax" and not "Home tax"... It's a tax on the value of the property, which as you note, includes the house, but also includes pools, sheds, gardens, streams, and such.

Re:Interesting (2, Interesting)

tacarat (696339) | about 4 years ago | (#33126802)

Please mod informative. Just curious what state/towns are at this level of sophistication. I'm also moderately worried about needing a police auto-alert for gunfire >.>

So does she have a pool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126304)

And is it unlicensed?

When a pool fails... (5, Interesting)

crow (16139) | about 4 years ago | (#33126346)

I had a friend who had a neighbor with an unlicensed above-ground pool. I'm not sure what went wrong, but one day it collapsed, sending all of the water into my friend's back yard, destroying everything there. Building permits are required for good reasons, and they're usually dirt cheap (less than 1% of the project cost). If you're hiring a contractor who doesn't get a building permit, then they're probably not doing it to save you money, but to allow them to skimp on important building code details that might end up costing you a huge amount.

Re:When a pool fails... (2, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#33126388)

So if the pool had been licensed then the water wouldn't have done as much damage to your friends back yard when it collapsed?

Re:When a pool fails... (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#33126538)

Don't have any experience with pools, but I can tell you that building inspectors are, in general, pretty mediocre. They will approve the most bizarre plans, and then suddenly become as tough as nails over the most ludicrous things. Someone once told me that building inspectors are usually failed contractors, and I believe it.

Re:When a pool fails... (-1, Troll)

tsalmark (1265778) | about 4 years ago | (#33126620)

You're an idiot right?

Re:When a pool fails... (1)

Kenja (541830) | about 4 years ago | (#33126640)

Ideally they would have said "no license for you till you get nails. No, staples wont work".

Re:When a pool fails... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126674)

No, but it would have been inspected and probably less likely to have collapsed.

Re:When a pool fails... (1)

tacarat (696339) | about 4 years ago | (#33126742)

Or maybe you wouldn't get "serves you right" looks from people when you find out you hired somebody not known for quality work (or a fly-by-night operation). How does one prove a contractor provided sub-standard work using substandard materials for something that's not supposed to exist? Would an insurance company pay for damages caused by an illegal pool mishap, be it a drowning or damages? If your neighbor sues because you flooded their home with run-off, don't you think their lawyer is going to pounce on the pool's legality to maximize what you pay them? Hell, what if you were to buy a place with an illegal pool and didn't know it? Then you're stuck with the problems and increased and unmitigated risks with it.

Re:When a pool fails... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 4 years ago | (#33126858)

Um, maybe getting a license would have brought to light the problem that caused the pool to fail, like uneven ground or poor construction. I know, it's crazy, right?

What a pool costs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126516)

The building permit isn't the major cost. Pools increase a property's tax rate. This is the main benefit a building permit gives to municipalities. The property tax increases by a bit more than 1%.

More greedy bastards... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126396)

Don't they have anything better to do?

The thing that bugs me about this is not that they're finding unlicensed pools but that they're doing this instead of finding waste in their own departments.

Notice that they aren't cutting administrative overhead or the salaries of those at the top? Instead they're raising taxes and applying more and more fines to get more money out of people.

Damn greedy bastards.

Talk about google privacy at defcon (4, Insightful)

socz (1057222) | about 4 years ago | (#33126404)

The speaker moxie said basically, what the gov't had been trying to do but would never be able to is what google is doing now. To put it in perspective, he asked: "Who do you think knows more about the people of Iran? It's government, or google?"

So for all the good google does, this is one small way that it hurts some. That's not to say though, that the people who have these pools are innocent. Yes, we're a capitalistic society as many think, but no, you don't pay to have the roads you drive on to be paved, you contribute like everyone else does in small amounts. And without those small amounts almost nothing would be possible as we get much more and further by working together than alone. []

this is fascism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126422)

what ever happened to owning property?

Re:this is fascism (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#33126438)

That went away sometime back in the 19th century.

Re:this is fascism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126488)

Tax collectors.

Re:this is fascism (-1, Troll)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 4 years ago | (#33126678)

"what ever happened to owning property?"

You don't own property in the USA, you merely rent it from the govt.

Just try not paying your property taxes for a period of time, and see how long you still 'own' said property.

Exceptions of course for states with no property tax...but you get the idea.

Huh? (2, Interesting)

ProfessorKaos64 (1772382) | about 4 years ago | (#33126478)

How can this be considered acurate when the satellite image of my house still contains our pool that has been ripped down for over a year? I sure hope they check the date on the satellite imaagry if they even can see that (not sure if you can). Using unsolictated tools to that arn't officially sanctioned for use like this is sorta ridiculous. Not in a privacy sense, as it is public images, but in a sense on a basis on how feasbile it is as proof when its not a standard tool for that purpose.

Re:Huh? (1)

Maarx (1794262) | about 4 years ago | (#33126668)

I, uh, imagine that when they find an unlicensed pool on Google Earth, and send somebody to tell you, he does, uh, a quick peek around back to make sure the pool is actually still there before he knocks on the door.

Re:Huh? (1)

Midnight's Shadow (1517137) | about 4 years ago | (#33126822)

I, uh, imagine that when they find an unlicensed pool on Google Earth, and send somebody to tell you, he does, uh, a quick peek around back to make sure the pool is actually still there before he knocks on the door.

Get real! This is the government we are talking about. You get the fine in the mail and then have to fight it to prove that the pool is no longer there. There is no actual going to the houses anymore.

Reasonable expectation of privacy... (3, Interesting)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 4 years ago | (#33126496)

Do you have it in a fenced in back yard?

What about the "traditional" points of view but at other wavelengths? If your house is transparent to spectrum X - should you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in say your bedroom?

Some photography laws allow for pictures of private locations from the street, but not using telephoto optics - does that apply to satellites and airplanes use? Perhaps you could make the jurisdiction argument, but if your "camera" is located outside of the jurisdiction, but the person pulling the shutter is within the jurisdiction (e.g. programmed flight, camera, and receives images) does that muddy the waters?

I don't think this excellent reference [] even addresses the issue at hand.

Mosquitoes (0, Offtopic)

RyanFenton (230700) | about 4 years ago | (#33126594)

While the fines are annoying - they make sense in the current tax climate (Rich go mostly untaxed by historical standards, the rest have comparatively less than ever to tax).

The real benefit to these actions, however, are being able to identify abandoned pools and other standing water that mosquitoes can breed in. Just a little specialized oil put onto the surface prevents the nymph-stage mosquitoes from breathing at the surface of the water, and doesn't harm other species at the same time, and is a very cost efficient method of preventing many diseases.

Ryan Fenton

Any different from norm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33126744)

I heard about the city hiring minimum wage college students to drive around neighborhoods looking for houses that looked like they had recently had work done.
They'd then check to see if there were permits pulled, and if not schedule a "reappraisal" of the property. My understanding is that the results in property tax increases more than paid for the employees for the 1st year.

This is just using aerial photos instead of driving down the street. They could have hired a plane to look for them as well, but this is a better use of Taxpayer dollars.

I do not have much of an expectation of privacy in regard to my front & back yard. If they were looking through windows that would be different IMO (I have an assumed right to privacy within my house & garage)

Sounds like "sour grapes" on the part of people who tried to cheat the system and were caught.

Interesting and not unexpected. (1, Informative)

Biggseye (1520195) | about 4 years ago | (#33126772)

First off I am not a fan of Governmental regulation. I had and issue with a my township and a portable pool. The fact is that you have no expectation of privacy in you own back yard as far as aircraft are concerned. The basic rule of thumb is that anything viewable with out special equipment is considered public and a plane is not considered "special equipment". I think the licensing that they are talking about is actually the building permit with inspection documentation. Swimming pools are considered by the courts as "attractive hazards" That is why cities, towns, townships, states all require certain types of fencing, gates, locks, etc. It is also and insurance issue. See what happens when you add a pool and notify your home owners insurance company.
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