Social Networking Blog

Guy Clapperton on the evolving new media

Official: Google Maps pictures challenged

Google Maps
Image by edans via Flickr

OK, I’m the first to admit I was a little spooked when I first saw Google Maps had a picture of my house on its Street View view. It even had a picture of my car. But then I’ve always understood my car and my house are in a public place. You can’t come in, but there’s nothing to stop you standing there and glaring (I’d rather you didn’t but I can’t actually stop you).

Clearly someone doesn’t actually understand this, though, which is why Google is facing a legal challenge.

I hate this. I’ve already blogged on it on the Daniweb blog and now that it’s official I feel no less strongly. If we want people visiting this country to feel we’re backward, then fine – let them arrive and find that Google Maps’ pictures flick off on their iPhone or Android phones when they cross our borders. If they want to think we’re obsessive about privacy then OK, let pictures taken in a public place be banned but let’s introduce compulsory ID cards and hang the consequences.

I’m not pleased. I hope this fails. It feels like a huge step backwards – I can only repeat, these are pictures taken in a public place and Google has been most co-operative about taking anything down that appears to embarrass or compromise someone.

Later: My thanks to fellow journalist Eric Doyle for pointing me to his post in which he disagrees vehemently with me.

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March 24, 2009 - Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , ,


  1. Couldn’t agree more, Guy. Privacy is so obsessive that we’re creating a paranoid culture.

    It seems odd that the government seems obsessed with creating databases containing every detail of our lives (my daughter’s school just told me about yet another one called ContactPoint) while encouraging the idea that if your car numberplate is broadcast on telly your identity will be stolen and your kids kidnapped by paedophiles.

    We seem to have reached the point where it is tacitly accepted that no-one has the right to know anything about anyone, except the government, which has to know everything.

    Comment by Patrick Neylan | March 24, 2009

  2. It’s not so much the invasion of privacy issue as it is the detail involved. Street View allows a 10x zoom without losing detail appreciably. Based on my 17 inch screen that would render an image of approximately 7ft x 5ft if you stitched the zoomed portions of a single view together. That means an image of my house fills this space. As my house is a corner plot it means that all aspects of my house (front, back and side) are exposed to the world for remote access.

    In future, when I get a call from double-glazing companies I can no longer lie and say that all my windows are newly installed. They will reply that they are looking at an image of my house and can tell I’m lying.

    Seriously, though, I think the degree of detail is excessive and the fact that the camera is nine or ten feet from the ground exposes things normally hidden from passers-by by seven or eight foot fences. Even though the images are around six months old, some things that Street View exposes may prove attractive to thieves.

    Comment by Eric Doyle | March 25, 2009

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