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Google launches street level photos and public concerns

Posted in Google,News by Darrin Olson on June 2nd, 2007

Google streets launched showing street level images and raises concerns for privacyGoogle’s online map application now has an even more advanced imagery than the already cool Google Maps satellite photos, called Street View, and although these new photos are great for seeing places you’ve been, might like to go, or may never go now that you’ve seen them, the images have been raising some concerns over privacy.

Google isn’t the first to start mapping the world this way and they also aren’t the first to gain criticism for doing so, but anything Google does these days gets more than the average share of attention. One of the major concerns for these types of street level photos comes from groups helping women with domestic violence as the photos could capture women entering shelters. In this instance Google worked with the groups to identify and avoid taking images of sensitive areas.

But for the most part Google argues that these images are the same thing people would see in public if they themselves were walking down the street. “This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street,” Google spokeswoman Megan Quinn said in a statement. “Imagery of this kind is available in a wide variety of formats for cities all around the world.” Google also has a feature on Street View where people can request the removal of an image with objectionable or identifiable content, although few requests have been made according to Google.

The Street View maps launched earlier in the week covering area’s in the San Francisco Bay, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami. When viewing an area of the map that has Street View available a new icon shows up in the upper right corner that highlights the streets that have the new view available. You can then click on the streets or move a small orange “person” to the location you want to see. The panoramic street level image displays in a window overlay and lets you drag it left or right to rotate around, zoom in or move down the street by clicking on arrows.

Earlier today while driving home from the Oregon coast we came across an orange van with cameras mounted all around the top and signs stating that it is “slow moving” and “mapping” the area, which we immediately assumed was Google and Immersive Media. So, watch for me giving a big wave on highway 26 in Oregon sometime in the near future.

Mashable has a top 15 list of interesting Street View images, and we’re sure more will crop up as coverage increases like the one shown here. I mean seriously, how is this guy supposed to get away with anything with all these vans driving around?