Thursday, June 21, 2007

Street View

Google has introduced a new feature to their maps system. It is called Street View. People are throwing out terms such as "Big Brother." Let's examine these claims.

First, let's remember that this is not government-run or -sponsored. It is a private company going around photographing interesting locations. Lots of people and companies do this already. This one just added the feature to mapping software. They aren't trying to stalk anyone, but people end up in the pictures, which gives an accurate view of the location.

People make the claim that it is stalking software. A person with your address can see what your house looks like. Y'know, I can do that by driving by. And driving by lets me control the time(s) I do so, allowing for far more relevant data were I trying to stalk you. Google's pictures are not in real-time. They are taken whenever they get a chance to drive through an area and photograph it. This is not, as far as I can tell, conducive to stalking.

Others scream about privacy. Let's examine this statement. Google's van is driving on a public road, taking pictures as it drives along. If you are visible to them, you have already put yourself in public view. They aren't driving onto your lawn and trying to take pictures through your blinds. Some people mention things like being photographed in embarrassing locations, such as entering a strip club. If you are embarrassed by this, don't go to a strip club. People could see you (and it's more likely that someone you know will see you in person, rather than using Google).

I've heard people throw Gitmo into the equation. Look back to the first sentence of the second paragraph. Google is not the government. Google cannot and will not throw anyone into Gitmo.

A few people have suggested that Google could/should digitally remove people from the photos. This would make the pictures an inaccurate representation of the world they claim to portray. I want to see Times Square as it is, people and all, not some digitally deserted version. It would be somewhat dishonest to show deserted pictures of places that are always bustling.

Overall, I kind of like the idea of taking virtual tours of places I might want to go. This technology allows me to look at a place and decide whether I would even want to consider it. I'm not worried about Google snapping a picture of me, just so long as they do so out in public, and not within the privacy of my own home.

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