Thursday, August 07, 2008

Street View dilemmas

Google Maps have released Street View and caused quite a flurry in the world of citizen's rights and privacy. As we all leapt online to look at our homes and see just how well the Google camera cars performed, a general kerfuffle of anxiety erupted.
There is a lot of concern among some people about vulnerability to crooks "casing" their joints from afar, checking entrances and exits. Indeed, if one adds the satellite imagery to the street view, one does get a pretty comprehensive look at properties. A boon for the real estate trade. A boon for people trying to sell roofing, too, perhaps. But the general paranoia is a bit much, I think. The photos are old. They are not live. Car number plates and people's faces have been cleverly blurred. This is not spying. It is not Big Brother.
It is, however, a comprehensive mapping of the world. And it is a joy for squizzy people - for those who think they can tell a lot about a person by the house in which they live. I, as you can see, am decidedly secretive and inscrutable.

Things which fascinated me about this development were, firstly, the revelation (which somehow I have missed these last years) that Google Maps were in fact developed in Australia by Google's Sydney team.

Secondly, despite my unfortunate brush with Google guards when I went to pay homage to its home in Silicon Valley, my experience here in making contact with the media office to find out about Street View was unbelievably prompt and friendly and helpful.

I was a bit peeved, I have to say, when responses sought to the new facility were met with legal caution, criticisms of Australian privacy laws and of Google - and the call for reform of said privacy laws. It sort of took the wind out of my own sails - and demonstrates howone's own opinions so often end up buried under the informational process known as news-gathering.

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