Posted by: nickgerlich | April 15, 2008

Taking It To The Street

So pervasive in 21C living is Google that it has become the Swiss Army Knife of the internet. Who among us has not ego surfed to see how many web pages we appear on? Who hasn’t borrowed an image or three from Google Images for use in a paper or blog? Or stored pictures or documents there, or used its email client?

And now, if you, stalkers, or burglars ever need to find exactly what your house looks like, you might be able to use the Streetview feature at Google Maps to find your way.

Yep, that knife may now have lock-picking software installed.

StreetViewA few days ago I decided to surf the streets of my youth in suburban Chicago. I quickly found that I could scroll (not stroll) up and down my street, and see every house on my block…and the next, the next, and the next. (Click the picture at left to enlarge it.)

I then went on a virtual tour of Las Vegas (you can go up and down The Strip), my mother-in-law’s neighborhood in Indiana, and my brother’s street in Florida. Amazing. It was almost like being there.

And that is what has some people upset. So upset, in fact, that they have sued Google for invasion of privacy. Turns out in some instances the Google photog went on private property, down driveways, etc., to snag pics of all sides of a home. How inviting! If a burglar ever needed a roadmap to enter your home, this would be the place to find it.

While Google has pulled the offensive images, it hasn’t made the lawsuit go away. Nor has it lessened the problem of individual persons being caught by a Google cam doing…um…things they probably shouldn’t be doing.

Like going into a strip club. Or walking down the street with the wrong woman on your arm.

Hey, as Dan Rather once wrote, the camera never blinks, and when you are in public, your persona is now public domain. You may want to wear a disguise the next time you do something your spouse would not approve of.

So popular has StreetView become that there is now a wave of independent sites that feature fun and intriguing images captured by Google, such as GoogleSightseeing.com, GStreetSightings.com, and StreetviewFun.com. I’ll say it again: Get a disguise.

Google’s software is able to take individual pics and stitch them together not only into a 360-degree panorama, but also into linear clickable images, allowing users to turn on a dime as well as go up and down the street. Sometimes the photog’s vehicle accidentally makes it into the picture, but aside from that, it’s anything goes.

While I have yet to find any Amarillo or Canyon streets with this feature on Google Maps (the street appears in blue outline if it is available), I suspect it won’t be long. In the mean time, I need to go buy that shotgun. Not to keep boys away from my daughters, mind you, but to keep Google hacks off my property.

Dr “Street Smart” Gerlich

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