Since the launch of Google’s street level imagery in May of 2007, Street View has become topic of fascination, legal wrangling, and just plain fun.
Google’s Street View Launches
Google unveiled its latest foray into the geospatial world with the launch on May 29, 2007 of its Street View application. Starting with Times Square, New York City, The Golden Gate Bride in San Francisco, and South Beach in Miami, users could access an additional button called “Street View” to see street level photos which provide a 360 degree view of the street. You can grab the icon of a person on the map to move around the city. Once you drag and drop the icon to the new location, a street level image pops up. You can further navigate up or down the street or use the arrows in the upper left hand corner to rotate the view and zoom in and out of the image.
Streets that have available street level photos are outlined in blue on the plan view map. More cities are in the works to go online.
The new Street View functionality from Google Maps is once again raising the concerns about privacy. While many are excited about the extended functionality and increased detail offered by street view photos, some are concerned about the level of detail that the photos are offering into residences. One post to the Boing Boing blog reported a reader that was upset about the view of her cat sitting on a perch in her living room. The link offered showing the woman’s exact address which seemed to some to be an issue of greater concern than the dim view of the cat in the window. Other image links of concern have been of a person taking out their trash and images where the license plate of a car is readable. . Over on WebWare, Daniel Terdiman is hoping to start the ball rolling on personal photos taken from Street View and has asked readers to send him their images. Wired has started their own collection of Google Street View imagery, asking users to vote on their favorite pictures. With a bit of humor, the Guia buscadores blog posted a visual instruction on his blog showing you how to stop the GoogleVan from taking pictures of your house. It will be of interest to see how the privacy issues plays out. Kevin Bankston, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was quoted in an article published by CNET news.com, saying “It is irresponsible for Google to debut a product like this without also debuting technological measures that would obscure the identities of people photographed by this product. If the Google van happened by your house at the right moment it could even capture you in an embarrassing state of undress, as you close your blinds, for example.” Speaking at the Where 2.0 conference, Kevin Bankston expressed concern over capturing images of people in sensitive situations such as leaving an AA meeting or shelters. In response, the article went on to quote a Google spokesperson as saying “We provide easily accessible tools for flagging inappropriate or sensitive imagery for review and removal…We routinely review takedown requests and act quickly to remove objectionable imagery.”
Google Blurring Street View Faces
May 14, 2008: Google has started to automatically blur faces on their Street View imagery. Using a facial recognition algorithm, Google has started to blur faces in New York City. From the Google Lat Long blog:
We’re also taking this opportunity to test our new face-blurring technology on the busy streets of Manhattan. This effort has been a year in the making — working at Street View-scale is a tough challenge that required us to advance state-of-the-art automatic face detection, and we continue working hard to improve it as we roll it out for our existing and future imagery.
The move is an effort to address privacy concerns in the United States and to be in compliance with regulations as Street View is expanded into other countries.
Street View Not Welcome in North Oaks
June 1, 2008: The St. Paul suburb of Minnesota is likely the first U.S. jurisdiction to demand that Google remove all imagery of the community of North Oaks from their online database. Apparently the entire city of 4,500 lives on privately owned roads. A letter demanding the removal of the imagery was sent in January and was complied by Google shortly thereafter. Interestingly, the article cites Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt who stresses that local citizenry understand that “The bottom line is what GIS and what Google is doing are not the same thing,” Reinhardt said. “[Geographic information systems] use aerial photography, but that’s very different than driving up my driveway.”
- North Oaks tells Google Maps: Keep out – we mean it – Star Tribune
Google’s Street View Car Adventures
June 28, 2008: Apparently one of Google’s Street View car drivers decided that an up close and personal tour of Microsoft’s Campus was in order. According to Gizmodo (the site refers to it as the GooCar):
The GooCar…wasn’t just covering regular roads, they were going in-between buildings and getting as many angles as they could of the campus….the Google guys were driving around the team that does, like nothing was wrong, when other Microsoft guys were laughing and yelling at them.
Street View on the Move in the UK
July 1, 2008: Despite the potential to be referred to the Information Commissioner, Google apparently has started gathering the street level imagery needed to launch Street View in the United Kingdom. According to the BBC, Privacy International, a British rights group, believes that Google’s technology breaks privacy laws in that country:
“In our view they need a person’s consent if they make use of a person’s face for commercial ends,” said Simon Davis of the group.
The group has written to Google asking for more information on their face blurring technology and has vowed to ask the Information Commissioner to suspend Google’s picture taking activities if they don’t receive the technical information they are looking for.
Welcome to Street View in Australia
August 11, 2008: Street View was recently launched in Australia, triggering a new round of funny and embarassing situations captured by Google’s Street View car (aka the GooCar) down under. One hapless person got caught sleeping off a drunken night on the lawn in front of his house.
Read more: How Google put Bill’s grief on show - The Age
Street View Legal Issues Keep Google Busy
August 2, 2010: The UK Guardian reports that almost half of the sixty worldwide legal or criminal investigations against Google involve their Street View imagery. Currently, there are 28 of them with eleven occurring within the United States. Aqute Intelligence, a competitive analysis firm, produced a Google Maps display of some of the lawsuits against Google.
[T]he search giant still faces lawsuits or criminal investigations in every continent except the Antarctic. Its products have been the subject of bans or threatened bans in at least 23 countries, and Google faces 33 lawsuits in the US alone, according to new estimates by the analysts Aqute Intelligence.
Litigation against Google because of Street View imagery was triggered by privacy issues and the recent collection of personal data from Wi-Fi connections from Street View cars.
Test Drive with Google’s Street View
November 28, 2011: Peugeot is promoting its new RCZ coupe with Google’s Street View imagery. Type in a to and from address in the search box to launch the application. While the application is processing, Peugeot keeps you “entertained” with details about its new car, hyping it with the tagline “No wonder even Google Street View wanted to take a ride.”
Even a short distance takes a while to process. I entered addresses that were only 1.3 miles apart yet it took several minutes for the web site to process the route. The resulting “test drive” is actually rather clumsy with stop action like photography pulled together from Google’s Street View imagery and the dashboard of Peugeot’s RCZ coupe placed at the bottom of the screen. For part of the route, the car was actually “driving” backwards with the sequence of imagery in reverse. Watching the entire route was giving me a sense of car sickness with the perceived motion going back and forth as the Street View imagery toggled from moving forward to moving backwards.
Peugeot’s RCZ View isn’t as slick as some of the other viral marketing campaigns out that that I’ve seen. The jumpy still photography certainly isn’t a good promotional platform for driving an actual RCZ coupe. State Farm’s Create a Local State of Chaos was more imaginative and better developed.
Visit: Peugeot RCZ View