Street View is here

December 2, 2008 at 10:25 pm 7 comments

Thank you, oh Google God, for giving us our Street View. We have been waiting for your bounty and you’ve delivered.

Om Tat Sat Paravastu. This is a Hindu prayer that, back in my boarding school days, we were required to say before every meal. On the rare occasion that there was a special spread of good stuff, the boys would say the prayer with some real feeling before jumping in.

And Street View has a spread of good stuff.

Like many others, first thing to look at was our house. No laundry; grass cut; nothing special. Check. Next, the office. Nothing to embarrass me. Check. Onto the goodies. So many things to look at, so little time. A good one is Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, one of the best holiday places ever.

The Street View of our house has our car prominently featured. Zooming in, I couldn’t make out the numbers on the licence plate. So I “drove” through the Mount Vic tunnel. The angle for looking at licence plates is perfect. But, true to their word, it isn’t possible to make out the licence plates.

Indeed, Google has handled the privacy angle really well. They seem to have learned from previous experiences of privacy concerns with Street View in other countries.

Google got the basics right, such as blurring faces and providing an easy tool for people to report inappropriate images. For good measure, they also got an endorsement from the Privacy Commissioner. And the media help set expectations by quoting John Edwards as saying, “under New Zealand law, people did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy while in public.”

The enormity of photographing an entire country and making it freely available is staggering. Stuff on this scale, and that too with enormous public good benefits, is associated with governments, not ten year old companies.

So I thought the kids would be blown away. Nah, they were disappointed that the images weren’t real-time. God, are you listening?


Entry filed under: NZ, personal_info, privacy, Web_2.0.

Showing us a better way

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. google street view | Digg hot tags  |  December 3, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    […] Vote Street View is here […]

  • 2. The end of the road « The back paddock  |  December 3, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    […] Kumar wrote a brain-pausing post on it from a privacy point of view, and I’m fairly happy with my own privacy, too. […]

  • 3. Vikram  |  December 4, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Re-reading my post, it sounds like I sent out a challenge for people to find examples where licence plates were clear in Street View. Rowan did just that by sending me this link.

  • […] 15, 2008 There are some things that you come across on the Web that you simply have to have a go. Street View is one. Very few people can resist checking out their own […]

  • 5. heuristic  |  October 26, 2009 at 10:36 am

    What a surprise and disappointment: I found this site linked from a libertarian site and despite the name find that it is run by a bureaucrat.

  • 6. Vikram  |  October 26, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Hi heuristic, thanks for the comment- I’ll take it as a compliment!

  • 7. prethicsandissues  |  November 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    I think Google has covered up themselves in a really nice and cosy PR blanket and your entry proves it quite well. You are saying that Google learned their lesson from previous privacy- abusing it really? Yes, they do blur people’s faces and cars’ plates but what they took away is the possibility to delete a picture that we appear on. I think it’s critical to notice that because it means that they are taking more and more control and all we can do is to rely on the fact they ‘do it well’. Personally, not a fan of that.


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