Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Google Street View

There are entire organizations built around the concern that Google violates personal privacy. I've perhaps been lax in my concern because I figure I don't do anything questionable anyway, so who cares if someone is watching me.

But I've been hearing a lot through the grapevine about Google Street View, the interactive mapping service that gives you a three dimensional pictorial view from certain streets in certain cities around the world.

Apparently they drive a car down streets with several cameras which take photographs every second or so. In this way you can 'tour' interesting places with Google Streetview.

Many of the same people who worry about Google's invasion of personal privacy also question whether or not it is ethical to take pictures of people and places without prior permission. And suddenly I have found msyelf to be one of those people.

See that little silver Yaris in the picture above? That's my car. They caught it as they drove by my Church taking pictures for Google Streetview. I wanted to see if they had a picture of our Church in Streetview. I was surprised to find /my/ car. I don't think I'd go so far as to say that it's a violation of my privacy, but I'm not sure I like it.

Now obviously I can't be too upset about it or I'd not post the picture on my blog. Being 'caught' at Church would not usually be considered to be a bad thing. But this photograph has given me pause for thought.

On occasion I run down to my mail box before I've showered or thoroughly brushed my hair, most often in strange attire. What if the Google Vehicle had been driving past my home right at that time? What if it passed by while I was on the street yelling at my dogs in that same strange attire? What if I were walking past some questionable place or with some questionable person, even in the most innocent of circumstances. What would these images - that do not belong to me - say about me, or the way I live?

These tiny slices of 360 degree life are stored for posterity somewhere on Google's servers, and suddenly I find that it's creeping me out.

In case you're wondering "What is Google Street View?" The wikipedia gives a decent definition.

What do to if you are concerned about Google Streetview and your home.

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