Does Google’s Street View Feature Have Your Privacy In Mind?

I’ve always wondered how Google was able to make it happen; drive around in a car with a 360 degree camera attached that captures details of every street, no matter how small, and publish them on the internet for anyone and everyone to view. Street View was first implemented into Google Earth in 2008. The United States is the country that has received the most coverage up to this day, and they’ve even covered parts of Antarctica! You can see this is a great technology for those interested in getting a view of what something is like somewhere, but what about the risks that are involved in this idea?

This concept has obviously raised privacy concerns as I wouldn’t approve of someone snapping a photo of my home, putting it on the internet, and attaching my name and address to it. This is essentially what Google is doing. Their defense is that the information is public. They’ve since updated their privacy policy saying that faces and license plates will be blurred, they’ve mentioned that the images are not real time (let’s hope not), and if there are any issues, they seem to have made it easy to report them.

Since launch, Google has improved their product significantly. There are even ways they can look into yards and over privacy walls since the camera is elevated. This has caused great concern for those who wish to have their privacy respected. In Germany on May 14, 2010, Google was accused of gathering private information on WiFi networks. The company has posted a blog admitting to their fault and has since corrected it. Other concerns such as parents fearing for the security of their children, the Department of Homeland Security banning US military bases and other sensitive areas, as well as other sensitive content that the vehicles just happen to pass by. You can only imagine.

Some recent things that have hit the news are the complaints of “intrusion” and “invasion” of privacy in Greenwich, CT. People are worried that not only is the Google service these things, but residents of homes are worried about break-ins and crime because they can scope things out beforehand. Just earlier today, articles were relased stating that a Google driver was caught on the wrong end of the fence while driving through Detroit and photographed a kid aiming a gun at the vehicle!

I look forward to the future of the Google Street View and seeing what other things become of it. People deserve their privacy and while these things may be an inconvenience, Google captures some amazing things; I will leave you with this.

Photo by: Kevin May
Google Street View Privacy Policy
Google Street View Wikipedia
Google Street View sparks privacy issues in Greenwich
Google Street View Camera Captures the Business End of a Gun


9 thoughts on “Does Google’s Street View Feature Have Your Privacy In Mind?

  1. Have you seen the google glasses? ( If streetview has people up in arms over privacy concerns, I can’t wait to see how they react to the glasses.
    That said, this does provoke the question of expectation of “privacy.” If I’m on a public sidewalk, then I have to expect that anything I do can be seen by anyone around. If one of them is livestreaming their jogging route (You could probably do that around RIT, we have enough wireless) is that different?

    • I’ve seen the Google Glasses video, yes. Quite interesting. I myself look forward to seeing what becomes of this as well.

      I agree with you and Google in which public streets are the like are PUBLIC. The concerns raised were from people who have purposely set up boundaries (for the sole purpose of maintaining their privacy) and Google’s elevated cameras being able to overlook those boundaries.

  2. This was a really interesting piece. In my mind, it not only brings up the issue of privacy, but where a line needs to be drawn. I can understand the concern people have with their personal privacy being breached, but I do agree with Google’s statement that information is public. If someone really wants to see you house, they can simply drive over, Google has simply created a vessel to make the process easier. In regards to the other illegal and illicit acts that can be seen, it’s a bit of a grey area in my mind. There is a point where it is legal to intervene, but I’m not sure that we yet have laws that firmly outline those rules and processes.

  3. Very nice article, and those pictures are really cool. I feel as though people just like to complain when it comes to things like this. Sure its not in everybody’s best interest to have somebody able to see your house from their computer, but a person can always just drive over anyways. If illegal activities are going to be taking place, such as robbery, then your house is going to get scoped out one way or another, its just a fact.

    • I agree with what you said. If someone doesn’t like people looking at their house on the internet what about all the people that just walk by and look at it. The people complaining obviously don’t have a problem with them.

  4. I honestly don’t see a problem with Google’s street View. As we discussed in class, people could have just went to the person’s house and looked at anyways. Yes, this makes it a little easier, but it’s basically the same thing. Also, it’s not like Google is completely disregarding privacy, they are still blurring faces out so that you are not able to determine who anyone is when looking at street view. I find street view to be a useful tool, especially when getting directions to go someplace. I can look at street view to see exactly where I’m going.

  5. I think Google’s Street View isn’t too pervasive as of yet. But what about the possible next step from 2d images to a computer generated 3d representation? They currently only have some cities mapped in 3d, but as technology advances there really won’t be much stopping the spread from cities to your own neighborhood.

  6. I didn’t know that Google changed their policy on blurring people’s faces. I know there has been some privacy issues that have come up with Google Maps. Off the top of my head I remember a horrifying case where somewhere in Spain someone found the Google Streetview had snapped a photo of some dead woman laying on the sidewalk. Google was able to blur her entire body out within hours, but it brings up the topic on whether Google drivers should be more attentive to what they’re photographing.

Comments are closed.