There has been quite a lot of press lately about Google’s new Street View service. Street View allows you to pick a street and see it how it really is. This isn’t a satellite image, but rather pictures taken right on the street. So for example, here is a picture of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, taken right from the strip.
Great service, right? You can now plan a trip and not only get driving directions, but see what color the gas station is where you have to turn right. Or you can virtually visit places you’ve been before. A stroll down memory lane without leaving your chair.
But there are a lot of people crying foul. Almost as soon as the
service became available, people started to look for those ‘kodak
moments’. Wired Magazine has a site
where people can submit funny pictures they find on the site. Already
there are pictures of people picking their nose, bikini clad females,
men walking out of strip joints, and even guy who appears to be
urinating on a speed limit sign. Is this an invasion of privacy?
From a CNN article:
“Everyone expects a certain level of anonymity as they move about
their daily lives,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney for the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group devoted to protecting people’s
rights on the Internet. “There is a certain ‘ick’ factor here.”
Bankston goes so far as to worry some people in need of
psychological or medical help won’t seek treatment for fear of being
caught in the cross-hairs of Google’s cameras.
So, is Google evil for ignoring these concerns? Are the concerns legitimate? Should Google rethink the service?
No, they should not, and we only need to look at Star Trek 2 for the
answer. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. This can
be a fabulous service for millions of people. It would be silly to kill
the entire program because of a few pictures here and there. While
there are some privacy and safety concerns, Google has addressed these
by making it possible for a person to request a photo be taken off the
site. If your friends think you are vegetarian, and Google happened to
snap a picture of you feeding your face with a Big Mac, simply click on
the help button and you can request a picture be taken down.
Google is on very solid ground from a legal standpoint. All of these
pictures were taken on public streets, and the pictures depict people
who are in public. Personally I look forward to more cities coming
online. And if you see a black van driving around your city, smile and say cheese.