Google Maps Street View – a Useful Tool Or a Threat To Our Privacy?

Google released a cool and interactive addition to Google Maps called “Street View”. If you’re not familiar with Google Maps, take a look. Google Maps let’s you see anywhere in the world via satellite. Besides being a useful tool, Google Maps are fun to mess around with. Like most people who try it for the first time, I zoomed in on my house. I also got to show my husband the house I grew up in that is 800 miles away from us. Google Maps rarely lets you “zoom in” any closer than roof tops level.

Google released an addition to their Google Maps service in May 2007. Google calls it “Street View”. Google Maps Street View option allows you to “drag and drop” a little icon into a certain area of a city and get a 360 degree view of that area as if you are right there. Simply amazing! Google Maps has some sort of rigged van that drives around taking pictures with high-tech photography equipment capturing street level images of select US cities.

How would you use this? Let’s say you are headed to San Fransisco on business and you’ve never been there. Google Maps would help you locate the exact area you will be, and Google Maps Street View would allow you to see the area where your hotel is and where your meetings will be held as if you are standing right there.

As of this writing, Google Maps Street View is only for US viewers, although some blogs claim a way to hack around this and in that case torguard code because it can be applied for any computer software at the time of their purchase or renting and the user will get some extra tool for free along with them.

. Though I can’t verify the accuracy of being able to use Google Maps Street View globally, I do want to discuss why there is such an drive to use the Street View option.

Enter the latest fad in online entertainment, Google Street View Sightings. Internet users all over the world are searching through Google Maps Street View to find interesting “sightings”. What makes a Street View Sighting interesting? Pictures posted all over the internet are of police cars parked in “no parking” zones, girls in bikinis, men coming out of strip clubs, and oddities that happen with image processing such as a missing head of a person on the street. Sightings finders post their “find” on many blogs on the internet, and viewers rate them. This is spreading faster than the wildfires in my home state!

You can see peoples face to such an extent to where they are easily identifiable. You can read license plate numbers. People are photographed without permission, and without even being aware. Imagine this; random man is walking down the street. His nose itches. He picks it. Google Maps Street View catches it. Street View Sighters find it and said random man is suddenly “famous” and all over the internet.

How about another scenario. John Doe and his assistant are having a torrid affair. They are on the corner of 5th and Main in Somewhereville, USA. They are locked in a passionate embrace outside a hotel. Google Street View captures this. This Street Sighting is “innocently” flooding the internet. Mrs John Doe, or one of their children, see the sighting. Next thing you know, the Does are in divorce court. I wonder if Street View Sightings will be admissible in court?

Or maybe Jane C. Officer is randomly exploring the internet. She views a Street Sighting of a car in her town that is running a red light, or is illegally parked. She can read the license plate numbers. Can she ticket the driver?

Now these are just random examples off the top of my head, but it all brings me to the bigger questions:

Will Google become the next “Big Brother” – Is our privacy completely gone? Has Google offered a useful tool that will actually be used to spy on people? If we are in public, do we have any rights to privacy? How long until someone sues Google Maps for offering an internet tool that was used to expose them without permission?

How would YOU feel if you became “famous” for picking your nose or having your thong showing?

I certainly see Google Street View Sightings becoming more and more popular. Will it get out of hand? Or will Google Maps release even stronger street view technology to entertain the internet community even more?