Will Google Make You a Peeping Tom?

Dennis Faas's picture

Ever heard of Google Street View? The new service is raising eyebrows within the online community and elsewhere, as it threatens worldwide privacy.

For example, while searching for her home, Ms. Kalin-Casey was able to see her cat in the living-room window of her second-floor apartment building. Kalin-Casey ultimately wants to know "where you draw the line between taking public photos and zooming in on people's lives." (Source: net-security.org)

Discussion about the confidentiality issues of Street View has been all over the web since Kalin-Casey recently voiced her concerns in an email to the blog Boing Boing. Google defended itself by saying, "Street View only features imagery taken on public property. This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street." (Source: nytimes.com)

Google claims to have consulted with public service organizations before developing Street View. As a result, users have the privilege of asking for photos to be removed for privacy reasons, although few of these requests have been received.

One Boing Boing reader refutes Kalin-Casey's concerns by saying, "You don't have a right to 'privacy' over what can be seen while driving the speed limit past your house." (Source: nytimes.com)

While the majority of people do not mind finding pictures of themselves and their homes on the Internet, some pictures threaten government secrecy. For example, images turned up of the inside of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. This area is under high-security so unauthorized photography is not permitted.

Clearly, the issues put forth by Ms. Kalin-Casey have caused much controversy over Street View. Google could have avoided privacy concerns by merely blurring people's faces in the images.

The question is: How did Google's service manage to take pictures of this guarded zone? The Answer: Vehicles equipped with special cameras. Google also purchased images from an external data provider.

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