Google’s Street View and Privacy


Google has added a new feature in selected cities to Google Maps. This new feature allows users to view street level shots of each block. For a long time, Google Maps has provided satellite images from above, but Street View allows people to view an area as if standing on the sidewalk. From the NY Times:

Ms. Kalin-Casey, who manages an apartment building here with her husband, John Casey, was a bit shaken when she tried a new feature in Google’s map service called Street View. She typed in her address and the screen showed a street-level view of her building. As she zoomed in, she could see Monty, her cat, sitting on a perch in the living room window of her second-floor apartment.

“The issue that I have ultimately is about where you draw the line between taking public photos and zooming in on people’s lives,” Ms. Kalin-Casey said in an interview. . . .

Ms. Kalin-Casey first shared her concerns about the service in an e-mail message to the blog Boing Boing on Wednesday. Since then, the Web has been buzzing about the privacy implications of Street View — with varying degrees of seriousness. Several sites have been asking users to submit interesting images captured by the Google service, which offers panoramic views of miles of streets around San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver.

On a Wired magazine blog, for instance, readers can vote on the “Best Urban Images” that others find in Street View. On Thursday afternoon, a picture of two young women sunbathing in their bikinis on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, Calif., ranked near the top. Another showed a man scaling the front gate of an apartment building in San Francisco. The caption read, “Is he breaking in or has he just locked himself out?”

Google said in a statement that it takes privacy seriously and considered the privacy implications of its service before it was introduced on Tuesday. “Street View only features imagery taken on public property,” the company said. “This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street.”

For a gallery of images of people captured on Google’s Street View see this post on Google Blogoscoped.

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3 Responses

  1. Mapper says:

    This is starting to get interesting. Take a look at this huge list of “interesting” finds via Google Street View:


  2. r says:

    Google is so 20th century…here is the real 21st century.

    3 years from now…..

    Everyone will be walking down the street with their miniature, Bluetooth camera lens embedded in their clothing (front and rear), which streams everything it/you see to your WiFi cell phone.

    Your WiFi cell phone will store everything on its 1 terabyte hard drive while at the same time streaming this video you see via WiFi to a “tracker network”. The tracker network is a social group of similar people ( by geographical area,interest..etc),numbering from 2 or 3 to tens of thousands in size. All of these tracker networks will include retail facial recognition software that will be 10 times more powerful than anything currently available.

    The TrackerNetwork facial software works by taking every face that is inputted into its database and giving it a unique number.

    Then the face is identified in two ways.

    1. The TrackerNetwork facial software has so many thousands of “hits” on any face over a period of day/weeks it identifies where this person starts his/her day, works, shops etc. It does this all automatically without knowing who the person is.

    2. People who belong to the TrackerNetwork input faces and identify them by name.

    With the above two, anyone belonging to the TrackerNetwork can track just about anyone by belonging to a network from that city. Just input the name ( or unique ID the TrackerNetwork software assigns to an individual) and the software will either allow you to watch them live or can show you history from as far back as recorded on that individual.

    The upside:

    Modern Neighbor Hood Watch: Hit and run? captured on numerous cell phones, instantly uploaded to a tracker network and within seconds the car and driver are identified and sent to the police.

    You are walking down the street, a drug addict asks you for money and when you refuse, he starts to get violent. Picked up by someone watching from a store, driving by in a car and from the person waiting for the bus ½ a block away. Instantly sent to a tracker network.

    The downside:

    Anyone can track anyone all the time! You can track: politicians, celebrities, neighbors, spouse……etc.

  3. JMS says:

    Here’s a quick discussion from AP on the privacy stuff: