Google Streetview in the News


When Google Streetview was launched it caused all sorts of controversy. I took a good long look at it and found a few amusing things myself. Here is what I found.

Google Proves that Sunglasses and a Moustache is a Good Disguise

Apr 6, 2009

I just walked along Santa Monica Pier, which is impressive seeing that I am currently sitting in my house in the UK. I was using Google’s 360 Street View photos, and pretty much took a personal tour of LA. Great fun.

While taking my tour I noticed that one individual did not have his face blurred. There were actually 3 or 4 photos of the same person (I assume that on the pier the Street View camera was pushed at walking pace for safety reasons) and in all the photos this chap was not blurred. But he was wearing dark sunglasses and has a large moustache. So maybe Google does not recognise this as a face. Which means, it is the perfect disguise!

Man with Bushy Moustache and Sunglasses is not Blurred Out by Google
Man with Bushy Moustache and Sunglasses is not Blurred Out by Google

One other thing I discovered while taking my tour of Santa Monica Pier (the geographer in me really loves this new Google service!) is that LA piers have rock shops. I thought that rock (as in the sweet / candy, not the geological stuff) was something unique to the UK, but on Santa Monica Pier there is a place called Oatman Rock Shop. It has just occurred to me that maybe this place does actually sell rocks of the mineral variety. Any readers from Santa Monica here that can confirm either way?

Santa Monica Pier – Google Street View – Caught on Camera!

Santa Monica Pier - Google Streetview Image - Oatman Rock Shop
Santa Monica Pier – Google Street View Image – Oatman Rock Shop

Notice the chap taking a photo of the streetview camera team!

Google Street View May Be Pulled in UK

Mar 24, 2009

Google Street View may be switched off in the UK while a formal enquiry is carried out by information minister, Richard Thomas. Privacy International says that the website is still showing clear images of people and registration plates. In one case a woman who had fled a violent partner was photographed outside her new home. In another case two work colleagues were photographed kissing and cuddling, when they should have been home with their spouses. Google says that the privacy protection technology is in place. However, it would seem that it requires a little polish to get it fit for public scrutiny.

Google Streetview Spots Health and Safety Risk on Building Site

Mar 22, 2009

It is a real shame in a way that Google street view is a not a live service, being streamed from CCTV cameras. OK, people will have even more to should about, but here is an example of where it can highlight potentially dangerous situations. In this view of Cambridge Road, in the Barnes are of London, we see two builders taking a break from working on a basement. However, there appears to be no safety barriers to stop members of the public stumbling to their deaths. Maybe health and sfatey need to take a look. However, the basement is no doubt finished by now. Unless that tea break dragged on for a while.

Health and Safety? Google Street View Reveals Giant Hole (click to enlarge)
Health and Safety? Google Street View Reveals Giant Hole (click to enlarge)

Google Streetview Under New Attack – Children Put At Risk!

This is a great example of the tabloid press gone bonkers (or more bonkers than normal)

Mar 22, 2009

We are only three days into the Google streetview of London, and already people have escalated concerns to the highest level. Now, people fear that our children are at risk from paedophiles. The argument is that would be child abductors can browse children online, using Googles mapping software, and pretty much pick and chose which child they snatch. All they have to do is look up some schools on Google maps, and see which children are waiting for a bus, or to be picked up, outside.

Well, we put this to the test, and can report that after viewing dozens of schools in London, we could not see a single child. Google seem to have chosen to do some areas when the streets are very quiet, possibly long before the schools open, or at weekends. Google are not putting our children at risk.

Google 360 Streetview – Unblurred Images of London

I was obviously wandering the streets near where I worked to see if I could see myself on this day!

Mar 21, 2009

We have stumbled across more unblurred photos people and vehicle registration plates (number plates) in London. Some areas of London, especially in the Moorgate and London Wall area, seem to have largely been missed off the blur list. Many recognisable people wandering about the streets when they probably should be in work! It seems that Google has some work to do to get streetview updated in line with its own privacy policies.

Streetview of a street linking Finsbury Circus to London Wall

Clearly Recognisable People on Finsbiry Circus - London Street View
Clearly Recognisable People on Finsbury Circus – London Street View (click to enlarge)

Willow St, Hackney, London Street View – Lorry Driver taking a break? Willow Street, London - Lorry Driver taking a break, or driving with no hands?

Willow Street, London – Lorry Driver taking a break, or driving with no hands? (click to enlarge)

There are probably countless other examples of where Google has “failed to protect the privacy of people” on the streets of London. Google have a bit of reputation management to do now, as similar reports to this have been spread across the tabloid press in the last couple of days.

The funniest thing really though is that while we are just pointing out a few failures on Google’s part, we do not actually think that there is anything fundamentally wrong with your image appearing in a photo online. What is funny is that tabloid press complaining that Google is invading people’s privacy, and then displaying the photos in newspapers, meaning that the images will be seen by tens of thousands of people that would never have seen the photo otherwise. Once again it seem that the tabloid press is invading people’s privacy, and not Google. Of course, they will say that they are reporting the facts, for the benefit of the British people.

Google 360 Degrees Street View is Live for London

Mar 19, 2009

After months of legal discussions, Google’s innovative streetview photography is now available for London. London is possibly one of the most popular tourist hotspots in Europe, and now would be tourists can check out the area before jumping on a plane.

There has been, and still is, a lot of opposition to the 360 degree view of every street. Some believe that it is an invasion of our privacy, some scaremongers go so far as to suggest that criminals could use it to learn about areas (as if it is difficult to walk around London without being noticed) and many worry that they may be recognised in a photo getting up to no good, chatting to the wrong people or doing business with street characters,

Google have dismissed all these fears, with all faces being blurred out, and car registration plates also blanked out.

In addition to this any user can flag an image for removal, and Google are still striving to gather better photos for all areas.

However this is not stopping the campaigners from carrying on with their fight to stop street photography, kindly fighting for the rights of others to remain hidden and secretive, even when in public places.

Snapshot of a London Street View:

Moorgate, London
Moorgate, London

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