publicandprivatespace

March 9, 2011

Google’s Street View: Is Our Privacy Being Invaded?

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 11:15 am

By: Benjamin Swanson

Google introduced a new way to see the world in 2007 with Google Street View. This program, which is embedded in Google Maps, allows you to pick a spot on most roads in many cities around the world and look around in a 360-degree virtual world. The use of this technology has sparked a huge debate over the privacy of the pictures, and what some people say this is a major invasion of their privacy. Many countries in Europe , Asia, and even some states in the U.S. are investigating whether Google has violated privacy rules because they have taken pictures and made them available in such a public way, without consent.

When Google collected these pictures, they admitted to accidentally collecting personal information from wireless networks.  Even though Google’s “picture-taking” vehicle was connected to personal wireless Internets, only for a couple of seconds, passwords, emails and information were discovered.  The information was only available, and collected, from networks that didn’t have a password. Administrators at Google have said that as soon as they found the data was being collected, they alerted the authorities. Google has promised to delete the information as soon as the government is done with their investigation, also, they will increase the training that they give their employees regarding the proper use of personal data. Google apologized for collecting the information in the first place.

All of the photos that Google puts on its Street View program are available for viewing by everyone. Anyone that has access to the Internet and uses Google maps can see photos of your city, your home, or maybe even yourself. Some websites have made a game out of finding people in embarrassing or compromising positions on Street View, so these pictures of these people spread like wildfire, and may even be saved so they can never be deleted. Many sites show a before Google took the picture off and after they removed it. Situations on Google’s Street View range from pictures of people’s personal items, pets, people falling off bikes, to inappropriate clothing, to car crashes. Most of these pictures have been removed from the program, but not before people saved pictures of them on their personal computer and reposted them to the Internet. Google has not supplied users with enough tools to delete or modify photos of themselves or things that they don’t feel appropriate to be online. Google does allow users to tag inappropriate pictures and hopefully will remove them but never for certain, I believe they should allow the direct removal of photos off their site by users.

Google has no right invading the privacy of millions of people around the world, and there are almost no advantages to having this kind of technology. People around the world have been embarrassed, exposed, or caught on camera at the most unsuspecting moments. Many things could have been done to stop the invasion, Google should have been required to get permission from the government and permission from everyone that they took pictures of or their property, to put it on the Internet. I don’t believe it would be a big problem if Google Street View was not such a public tool, but since anyone can access it, a snapshot of your daily life or surroundings may be on the Internet for all eyes to see.

We need to make people aware of what Google has taken pictures of and put on this program. The information is out there, and cannot be removed, but we can educate people on what precautions to take. There are still many people who may not even know their pictures are on such a widely used program, so we need to allow these people to use the program and decide if they want pictures of their homes, or personal items on the Internet. I believe we also need to educate people more about safety measures we can take to prevent others from accessing personal wireless networks. All networks have the capabilities for a password, but many people find them to complicated to set up. Furthermore, Google and other companies who use technology like Street View need to get the consent of the people that they photograph if they are to post photos of them on such a widely used and easily accessible site.

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2 Comments »

  1. I agree with most of the points made here. I do think that considering the depth with which these photos are taken, there should be a need for government intervention. Private companies should not be able to capture and distribute so much with out any kind of authorization from the government. Granted, the people’s faces and license plates are generally blurred out however I still find some fault. One of the concerns I have is that the houses of private residents can be seen from street view which to be honest is a little bit creepy. It can also be a safety issue. I have also heard that many wealthy people have paid to get their houses blurred out. This simply sends the message that you can only have privacy if you can afford it. Therefore, I think the best solution to this issue would be government intervention for projects like these.

    -Vishal Desai

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 1:23 pm | Reply

  2. Most of the arguments made about Google street view seem pretty good. I agree that the images taken by Google do invade privacy when they are of people and private residences. Google should blur out all of the people and private residences that it photographs. If the places are public, Google should be able to not blur them out, but it should definitely blur all the people, and not just their faces. If Google street view did this, they would be much more helpful to the public. I have used Google Maps to get directions before, and the street view has definitely been helpful, but people don’t need to see so many details of the people that are out and walking about or their homes.
    -Andrea Gillis

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 10, 2011 @ 8:52 pm | Reply


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