A couple of weeks ago Google announced its latest map widget with much fanfare. Called Street View, it’s an option on Google Maps that gives you (literally) a view from street level of the address you’re searching for. When you go to Google Maps, click “Street View” in the upper right corner (not all cities have it — try San Francisco or New York), and you’ll get a little icon shaped like a human that you can move around the city grid. Move the human into place, click it, and suddenly you find yourself looking at a picture of the houses on the street. You can navigate down the block with arrows, even turning your point of view left or right to get a full 360-degree view of the spot.All the images on Street View were taken over the past few months by a camera mounted on a roving van. Later Google used special software to “knit” the discrete pictures together, creating the illusion that you’re seeing seamless images of streets….What are the ethics involved here? Is this an invasion of people’s privacy? All the photographs were taken in public places, and therefore nobody in them has any reasonable expectation of privacy under the law. But then again, privacy laws weren’t written with Street View in mind. It’s lawful to eavesdrop on people on the street because they’re in public. But is it lawful to publish online in perpetuity a picture of someone that captures him or her making out with somebody at a bus stop? Soon, lawsuits may seek to answer that very question.
Read Annalee Newitz’ Google My Bedroom from Alternet. Previously from WNM: Google’s Web History: Your search history and the privacy you willingly give away.