Google Street View — Cool or Creepy?

Most people reading this are probably familiar with Google Street View. Indeed, Street View has been around for a while now, at least in internet terms, but I have just gotten around to summarizing my thoughts on it now. Basically, Google Street View is where Google goes around in fancy cars and takes lots of pictures of the surrounding area, and then allows users to view a 360 degree view of the area just off the road. Some of the advantages to this sound appealing: such as being able to figure out exactly where a restaurant you are going to is located, or trying to view a particularly nasty intersection in advance. Still, I tend to find Google Street View to be more an invasion of privacy than anything else.

Certainly I am not the first person to point out the privacy issues with Street View. Clearly it would be infeasible for Google to go through and edit everyone out of the pictures in Street View so they just leave them all in there. This might not seem like a problem as what you do in public can be seen by anyone walking around anyway. That happens to be the argument of some, but I think it is flawed. That is, if you do something stupid in public only the people in the immediate area have even a chance of knowing what happened. With Street View, you picking your nose could be immortalized for all internet users to see.

Google responds to privacy complaints by saying that as long as you let them know which picture you don’t like they will take it take down. Honestly I think that is kind of lame. There is no way one would have time to go through the ever changing pictures to make sure there were not any unwanted photographs of them. Even though Google’s offer sounds all well and good they must know that very few people will actually have the mix of time, dedication, and luck to find the pictures they wish to be removed from Street View.

Finally, the argument has been given that someone, like a thief, could use Street View to plan their next robbery. At first I was 100% on board with this point, but now I am not so sure. Let us try and reason this out a little bit. First off, if someone is going to use Street View to plan this out we can assume they are already more advanced than the average robber. Next, if someone is going to rob your house it is likely that they are already near by, within short driving or walking distance. If they are not then it would be too much hassle to rob you when they could go somewhere closer. Since they are already close to you they could simply drive by your house and take their own pictures. After all, if they can use the internet we can assume they can use other forms of technology such as a digital camera. Therefore Street View doesn’t really aid a would be robber that much. Maybe it can help them decide whether to rob your house over your neighbors house, but chances are that they could have done it just as easily without Street View.

At the end of day I don’t really like Google Street View because I don’t think Google has solved all of the privacy issues with it. If there were a way for them to blur out all the people in it, or just remove them than I wouldn’t have any problems with it. However, it is unlikely Google would be willing to do that. Regardless of my feelings on the matter it doesn’t seem like Street View is going anywhere. I guess I will just duck if I see the Googlemoblie driving by… 🙂 .

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