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Business - Written by on Monday, April 13, 2009 13:42 - 13 Comments

Google Street View Car: Pose or Hide?



The Google Street View vehicles are kicking up dust traveling the streets of cities across the world. They are also stirring debate. The Google Street View feature of Google Maps allows users to see street-level panoramic photos of citiscapes and countrysides. To obtain images for the feature, Google parades its Street View cars down streets and highways, snapping photos of nearly anyone and anything that crosses the lens of its camera, which is mounted on the top of the vehicle (see picture).

Earlier in the month, residents of Buckinghamshire in the UK, chased one of the cars out of the village (see this article). Buckinghamshire resident Paul Jacobs was one of the less-than-content locals: “My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? This is an affluent area. We’ve already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks. If our houses are plastered all over Google it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike. I was determined to make a stand, so I called the police.”

UK residents’ reaction is similar to those in other regions of the globe. Needless to say, Google has received countless complaints and experienced considerable “civilian resistance.” Residents of Toronto, however, are in somewhat of a gleeful frenzy over the opportunity to see or be caught on camera by the Street View car. Perhaps they have been inspired by the Waldo sightings in France, Italy, and London.

The Toronto Star has been encouraging readers to comment on or Tweet about any Street View car sightings in the city. The excitement has street performers and members of the general public prepping for an opportunity to get in front of the Street View camera.

Google’s photography of any and every face and object in the city has not aroused gleeful excitement in all Torontonians. For better or worse, however, the Street View car’s arrival has aroused greater excitement than any professional sports team in Toronto has in quite some time (with the exception of one).


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Tokhir Dadaev
Apr 14, 2009 10:31

Vincent Clement
Apr 14, 2009 12:06

How can someone in the UK be upset with Google, when the UK has CCTVs all over the place? I wonder if any of those houses in the so-called affluent area have cameras on their property? Are they recording anything beyond their property? Hypocrites.

Catherine Thorn
Apr 16, 2009 9:58

Personally, I would be likely to hide, but I do not think it is wrong to pose or wrong for the Google Street View Car to be on the streets, taking pictures. The Google Street View function does not affect people’s privacy because it enables viewers to see no more than they would if they were to walk down the street with their eyes open. As the world becomes increasingly like a global village, increased accessibility to foreign lands is natural. Getting upset about the Google Street View Car is analogous to complaining that airplanes are enabling more people to visit and walk down streets that they would not otherwise have seen. Many people are wary of the power behind technology though and are quick to respond to new developments.

Yuan Ding
Apr 17, 2009 10:34

I would have to disagree with Catherine on the ethical stand of Google Street View. There is a difference between available information and readily accessible information. True, many can walk down a street and see for themselves, but few can do so at the click of a button. Google Street View allows anyone with access to internet to acquire instant visual shots of any country, on any road and down any alley.

I do agree that some people fear technology, but their defensive stand is supported with reasoning. Technology is so powerful that it could infringe upon basic human rights. One of such is the right to privacy. As technology evolves, the boundary between private knowledge and public knowledge is eroding just like the bridge between available and accessible information is narrowing.

Similar to Britney Spears and Brangelina having their lives exposed on tabloids everyday; citizens are justified in not wanting their houses and streets disclosed in full pixels on the web.

Apr 27, 2009 12:44

I was terrified my rental was photographed with a pile of trash on the curb the tenant had promised to dispose of. Now whenever my insurance or mortgage company, creditors or banks pulls it up on the map it shows the grizzly image of piled up debis!

This effectively puts me in a defensive position with anyone I need to do business.

I also discovered many people are starting to poke around and look up co-workers and clients homes which also creates an opportunity to discriminate based on locale or condition or god forbid an APARTMENT!

Is the saleswoman or agent that lives in an apartment complex going to be taken seriously regardless of her competence on the job?

Where does it end? Many people are running to Facebook to create profiles using their real names. You can bet a lot of unwanted visits to your online profiles are on the way. People need to wake up and start supporting privacy laws. Once our rights are gone they are never coming back!

In time to come you will be able to see peoples profiles and information available on portable devices while in FRONT OF THEIR HOUSE or just by passing by anyone with a cell phone or laptop. I’m expecting those who don’t want to participate in some of the services will have to pay an extortionary fee to keep their information private. Names and address will probably remain “public” information and you can expect the next round of drive-by’s to be using higher powered cameras with 100x zooms. They will probably offer the higher resolution images as an extra cost feature just as you are able to have custom satellite photos taken on demand for a fee.

Call it what you will. It’s an invasion of privacy and just a heartbeat away from electronic implants. Why wait…just get implanted now. 95% of you people are turd for brains anyway. How can we make any real progress when the ideals and values of the next generation are deteriorating faster than the technology is growing to take it away.

‘Any won cane wauk down tha stret annn tak a pikture…’

It’s not the same. Wait until someone stalks you and uses google to find a nice little alley behind your condo to wait for you or car thieves that come by and snatch that classic car in your driveway. What if you had your garage door open when the google spy van came by? Do you want less desirables on your street having a peek at your power tools and dirt bikes just a bolt cutter away from money in their pocket?

Too many gutless sheep.

All I know is I’m not going down without a fight and I’m going leave google a nice little message for their cameras the next time they come around! x)

May 1, 2009 13:06

While it’s understandable to be freaked out about the power of new technology, we have to stay grounded when it comes to our opinions about things like this. First of all, public streets are just that: public. The media, or anyone with a camera for that matter, has a right to photograph anything they wish from public property. The man who freaked out because he lives in an “affluent neighborhood” needs to realize that he lives on a public street. If the residents of that neighborhood are so worried about absolute privacy and protection, then they should consider becoming a gated community.

To the person concerned about garage doors being open for the pictures, the image of my home DOES have the garage door open and you cannot see inside because the Google car does not use flash photography, so no worries there.

To the person who mentioned a stalker using Google images to find an alley to hide in: A stalker is going to find that dark alley with or without Google Steet View- more than likely they will find it WITHOUT. And if someone leaves a classic car sitting in their driveway, they are inviting second glances from potential thieves anyways. They should move it into the garage and make sure they have proper insurance coverage. If you spot suspicious activity or people who don’t belong, be on the safe side and report it to your local police. And maybe you should check Google Street View to see if the culprits were caught in action!

As far as discrimination occuring due to use of Street View, let’s look at that from another point of view. If that same saleswoman with an impressive resume were found to be living in a massive mansion, a potential employer may question how hard she actually worked for the opportunities she’s had. Seeing that she lives in a run-down community may prove that she works hard to climb to the top, and could show promise of dedication and drive. Additionally, that saleswoman may choose to use Google Street View before going on sales calls, to make sure that she finds the correct house quickly, or to prepare herself for potentially adverse situations. A simple map can’t tell you if an address is hard to find and you should leave 10 minutes earlier, or if a neighborhood looks unsafe and you should bring a co-worker along.

Basically, my point is that we’re missing the big picture here. All these things that people are freaking out about come down to one thing: society has lost its values. Parents have given up their duty to raise their children and instill morals and values in them. Instead, they expect the rest of the world to be held accountable for whatever the media and entertainment and fast food industries “teach” their kids. If parents and mentors would step up to the plate and start teaching and SHOWING our youth the difference between right and wrong, we wouldn’t need to be paranoid about stalkers and thieves taking advantage of new technologies. And those parents who have done their jobs have taught their children that unfortunately you can’t trust everyone, so you have to be smart and look out for yourself. But you can’t halt the development of technology just because there are scary and unstable people out there.

So instead of instinctively being negative all the time, why can’t we look at the positive things that Google Street View has to offer? It can be used not only for the business purposes I mentioned above, but also for scoping out potential vacation sites, showing an out-of-town relative around your community when they can’t come visit, or just exploring parts of the world that you may never have the opportunity to see in person. Personally, the technology that we have developed over the past couple decades continues to fascinate me, and today’s generation is one of the most intelligent because of it. I think it’s awesome that the continuing advancement pushes and excites young people to learn new things and use their God-given intelligence to strive for more.

May 6, 2009 14:52

RAmen! Excellent post Brandy. I couldn’t have agreed with you more until I got to the last part of the last sentence.

Feb 12, 2010 18:57

Dear Brandy: I am Impressed I wouldn’t say it better. You have hold a wide range of topics in few clearly words. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Feb 27, 2010 13:29

My dad was at the end of his driveway, getting the mail from the mailbox, and saw the Google camera car go by! Now he’s ticked that they photoshopped him out of the image of his property. :’-( He’s in a rural area, and anything that happens out of the ordinary is noteworthy, and now he had his 5 minutes of fame stolen.

Joe S
May 14, 2010 5:42

How dare anyone take a picture of your house? It’s a public street you idiot. I’d like to go down there and start taking pictures of his house until he comes out screaming at me, and then get into a fight with him.

May 22, 2010 7:45

Pictures taken in public can not be prevented and should not be legislated against, though perhaps Google should pay a fee (to how many millions?) since they are profiting from the use of these pictures.

I think the larger issue should be that while Google was taking pictures it was also scanning unprotected wireless networks and collecting data on where people were going on the net.

People that leave their networks unprotected need to wake up but Google should not be allowed to take advantage of these trusting or ignorant people.

But I guess I’m kidding myself, BIG BROTHER (government or google or ??) is here and the only answer is to live in a shack in the woods and abandon the use of all electronics (kinda reminds me of someone).

Skye Cokely
Jun 14, 2010 2:57

A Good write up, I will bookmark this in my StumbleUpon account. Have a good evening.

David K
Aug 2, 2010 19:16

There is no right to privacy on the streets of the USA. One is in public, one’s house and car are in public. Now if google gets a peep shot through somebody’s window in their house, that would be different. Google clearly checks their videos for this issue and blurs out anything questionable. Bottom line…If its out on the street, it not private.

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