Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Google maps street view

Recently I needed to look up an address for a meeting and noticed a new link on the pop-up on google maps: street view. I clicked this and was amazed with a 360 degree panning view of that location. The great part is that I was able to look "across the street" from where I was going and spotted a landmark I am familiar with. That made it very easy to determine where I needed to go.

However, I then mapped my house and did the street view there. It was a little creepy to have the amount of detail that I did of my house from the street. Luckily my garage door was closed, but when doing the same for my mother's place, her garage door was open and her jeep was visible inside. Zooming in I could almost make out the license plate and with some photoshopping I imagine it wouldn't be hard to get the detail. This raises a very interesting question about privacy. Taking a picture from a public street seems legal enough, but then creating a database that anyone in the world can access takes it to a new level. Let's say that someone wants to look for a neighborhood to burgle. Clicking down the streets might show you an area where lots of people had their garage door open and there are nice cars inside. It's also disturbing to think of people being caught in the images. While I didn't see anyone in the images I looked at, my mother said that while clicking down the main street in her town she saw someone on a bike "in front" of her and then they disappeared in a frame down the way. And as you can see in the image I captured of Pearl and 28th streets in Boulder, there are a lot of cars visible in the image.

There are clearly advantages to having this data available when trying to get to a location you're unfamiliar with, but is this opening the door to potentially massive problems?

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