Google’s Street View

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Google unveiled its latest foray into the geospatial world with the launch on May 25, 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.

Google Street View along the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, 2007.
Google Street View along the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, 2007.

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, 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.”


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