Street View is here
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?