Tuesday, June 05, 2007



In case any of my Loyal Readers haven't already heard about Google Street View: there's a new feature (as of the last couple of weeks) in Google Maps, wherein one can, for some major metropolitan areas (such as New York and San Francisco), click on “Street View” and see detailed photos that were taken by drive-by cameras.

Of course, the bigger news came a day or two after it debuted, when complaints and concerns about privacy started pouring onto the Internet. You can see into people's windows, you can read the license plate numbers on people's cars, you can clearly recognize people. If a government agency had done this, we'd be outraged; some are equally as outraged that it came from Google. Others, on the other hand, are saying that driving down public streets with cameras is legally and morally OK, as is posting the results on the Internet.

And so it's now become a pastime, which might be — at least temporarily — replacing LOLcats, to virtually walk down the Google-Maps streets of the city, find some potentially juicy image, and post a direct link to it. I've seen one where someone's undergarments are showing, one where a man is feeding the parking meter outside a strip club.... And this is definitely one of those activities practiced by people with more time than sense.

In the spirit of “wardriving”, I hereby dub this phenomenon “warstreeting”.

Think the name'll catch on?


Lisa said...

Wow, this is really terrible. Much worse than I thought when I first heard about it. Replacing LOLCats? what will I do with myself?

Jim Fenton said...

This isn't really anything new; A9 (when it had a map service) had something called "block view" that was basically the same thing. Same privacy concerns, but seemingly nobody noticed. In a way, I'm glad Google did this in such a public way to kick off this debate. I'm much more concerned about little-known invasions of privacy than well-known ones.

As for the name, I don't get the analogy to "wardriving", which actually involves getting into a moving vehicle, or "warchalking", which involves marking WiFi locations. How about "streetsweeping"?

scouter573 said...

It's more like warpeeking or streetpeeking than warstreeting. Or maybe this is the original Google Eyes. (I keep thinking of
Barney Google
. Gives one the heebie-jeebies. Sorry.)

Barry Leiba said...

OK, the name is lame. I thought about "warviewing", but that didn't seem as catchy to me as "warstreeting".

Anyway, Jim: what's new about this isn't that the pictures exist, but what the scope of exposure is. They're not only available to everyone, but known by everyone. The popularity of Google... and the fact that people are making a game of finding privacy violations to flaunt on the Internet... is what's disturbing to me.

On the other hand, as some have pointed out, there's probably no better way to get the problem corrected.

On the other other hand, once your awkward moment has been noticed and posted, Google can remove it... but it will still be around forever.

Look at what happened with the sports-news photo of Allison Stokke, and then consider all the guys walking the Google Streets and looking for cute young babes caught on camera, for them to post and make lewd comments about. Ick.