Tag Archive for 'Calgary'

Google Street View: Useful Tool or Attack on Personal Privacy?

Street sample So you want to meet a few friends at a trendy restaurant in downtown San Francisco. Trouble is, you don’t remember the exact location or even the name. How are you going to tell your friends where to meet you?

Solving this dilemma used to require a long quest to track the place down. Now you can make that journey virtually, by clicking on Google Maps’ new Street View feature.

Street View is available for dozens of major cities across the U.S. It doesn’t cover all of each city. But in covered areas, it provides access to a 360 degree street-level view from almost any point on the block. All you need to do to locate your restaurant is to take a "stroll" down the street and check out the surroundings until you find it. Map

Here’s an idea for your next vacation: In order to capture everything you see, keep a camera rolling every time you walk down the street. That way you’ll have a virtual record of every intersection, every market, every coffee shop you pass.

That’s essentially what Google has done. They hired Immersive Media Corp., out of Calgary, to provide their high-resolution digital photographs. This meant mounting a camera on a car and driving down every single street that is covered.

It’s hard to deny that this is a really useful feature. Knowing what your surroundings look like is invariably helpful in finding your way. Everyone from the average citizen to local police officers can find a use for this.

But not everybody is so thrilled about the idea.

Suppose you find that restaurant by noticing the sign out front. But that’s not it. You can also see the people sitting at the outdoor tables, including one who looks a lot like your significant other. And who is that sitting suspiciously close to them…?

You get the idea. In addition to shots of the street, the images also capture people, cars, windows, yards, and all sorts of things that opponents say constitute a huge breach of privacy. And since there’s nothing we love more than privacy breaches, there are a bevy of blogs on the Internet where users have posted "items of interest" found on Street View. These show possible drug deals, people caught in embarrassing positions, and views of homes through windows.

Google defends its venture by saying that it offers protection for the embarrassing lack of privacy. Compromising images can be reported, after which they will be removed or altered. And of course, the images aren’t live; they were collected many months ago.

The bottom line? Lawsuits are inevitable. All it will take is a "discovery" on Google Maps that leads to a divorce, loss of job, or a burglary. Will this remove the Street View feature forever? Or will it simply force Google to be more careful about what it shows in its virtual Universe?