Big Brother Google Is Watching YOU!


Everybody is watching everybody else and you can too!

A reader recently asked if the GUARDIAN had any concerns about the new STREET VIEW feature on Google Maps. We clicked it up and the short answer is: Maybe, maybe not. (insert the address and select “street view”)

We are all on camera at the bank, gas station, office, at every major intersection, in motels, and at McDonalds. Is it any worse to have photos online of your house taken from the street?

The folks at Google drove up and down every street in Boise and coordinated 360 degree images with GPS and street maps over the past year or so. The result is a feature more amazing than the satellite views of Google Earth.

Mrs. Guardian immediately had concerns for single women, crime victims, etc. Others we contacted were concerned about the cops depending on the online feature for raids, assaults, and warrant service–with no certainty the address is correct or the info is current.

While we can see the uses by cops to view a neighborhood, we can also see bad guys using the same technology for nefarious purposes like burglary or worse.

A good story on WIKIPEDIA explains that some areas are not covered at the request of Homeland Defense. Which leads us to a bunch of questions:

–How would the Boise Police, Ada Sheriff, judges, and prosecutors, corrections officers, and city councilors feel about their homes and addresses being featured on the site (not by name, but by number)?
–How about all those other public servants like legislators?
–Should those who are paid to serve us be allowed anonymity?
–Would school teachers use it to judge students by the caliber of their residence?
–Do we have a right to see the mansion of a county official making $50,000?
–Can divorced women in fear of ex-husbands have their addresses eliminated?
–If they can’t legislate porn and public records off the internet, how can they kill the photos?

And the list goes on. The big question for the GUARDIAN is, “why has Google spent so much to record every home in a bunch of cities and what is the eventual business model?”

Those cyber dudes obviously have a plan to make big bucks off selling the data. Who buys it?

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. —How would the Boise Police, Ada Sheriff, judges, and prosecutors, corrections officers, and city councilors feel about their homes and addresses being featured on the site (not by name, but by number)?
    More importantly, how does the common citizen feel about this? It’s not like anyone with half a brain can’t look up someone in the phone book and just drive to the house if they want to scope it out.
    —How about all those other public servants like legislators?
    See above.
    —Should those who are paid to serve us be allowed anonymity?
    —Would school teachers use it to judge students by the caliber of their residence?
    Seriously? I mean come on, it’s not like teachers don’t already know the financial standing of their students. This is a stretch to be polite.
    —Do we have a right to see the mansion of a county official making $50,000?
    We have the right to see whatever part of any structure is facing a public road, just as we have the right to drive out there and take a picture of it (and Google has a right to take lots of pictures). If you don’t like this, put up a fence.
    —Can divorced women in fear of ex-husbands have their addresses eliminated?
    I’d be more worried about someone using a phone book to find the address.
    —If they can’t legislate porn and public records off the internet, how can they kill the photos?
    They don’t have a right to legislate porn and public records off the internet. (legal) Porn is protected under the 1st amendment, and public records are just that – public.

    Google hasn’t done anything that anyone with a camera and lots of time can’t do themselves. I agree that there are some privacy concerns with Street View (and its competitors) but the examples you’ve listed aren’t very realistic.

  2. In this day and age, why are people still so surprised that just about every piece of information about them is available for a price?

    Give me a Visa card and I can find out what I need about virtually anyone; voting record, phone number, shopping habits, investments, college attended, etc.

    I don’t feel this is a great fact, but nonetheless, it is a fact.

  3. I just tried it out. They did get the neighbor’s house….and I could eventually see my house, but they never did get the address right. I then typed in the address for my daughter and grandchildren. Again, they got a house close by, but not hers. Eventually I got to see her home, with the car in the driveway, but no exact address. No people were visible in any of the photos, but I will continue looking as I share many of the same concerns you have stated.

  4. Well, on the few places I checked, the addresses were so far off that they wouldn’t be much use to anybody.
    Also, while the downtown Boise photos were very clear, some on the outlying roads were so blurry that were useless (They need the Fraz as the photog!)

    Still, the idea is a bit bothersome. I’m sure somebody (and probably a lot of somebodies) can find baaad ways to use it.

    Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  5. Well said, Jason.

  6. Personally, I don’t feel compromised that someone can see what my home looks like. I just wish Google had advised when they would be taking the photographs so I could have hung something up in front of the house. Like a big sign that said
    “Our Mayor Is A JERK!!” Ahh! another missed opportunity!

  7. Google’s business model is and has always been “you come for the data, you see the paid advertising.” That applies here too. After the service has been test driven, you’ll see billboards in the Street View world papered over with whatever will hook you, because Google knows more about you than what street you’re looking at. (Like your last 10 internet searches.)

    The privacy implications for YOU, the searcher, are much greater than for those who live in these homes. I can drive by houses just like Street View has done. I definitely don’t know what your’re searching for, but Google does.

  8. Dave, Here is a link to a page with some interesting Google Street View photos.

  9. I’m not pleased about this latest google invasion of my privacy–it exposes anyone to potential dangers of more kinds than before they did it.

  10. I agree they didn’t do a great job with the current photos. Most of the addresses are 1-2 houses off. Unless you know which house you are looking for you may not even notice that.

    I think most Police Officers, Prosecutors, etc are a litte concerned that someone could potentially sit in the comfort of their home study their house, as well as the neighbors to come up with a plan to potentially cause harm to them. Then again, they could just drive by your house anyway and take a photo, this is just a little less obvious.

    Most people in Law Enforcement recieve death threats frequently. Of course most of the time it is just an angry drunk that gets over it when the sober up, however some might take it to the next level. Look at the case in Florida in January of 2007. Two guys with a grudge went to the sheriff’s house and killed his wife, and then killed a responding deputy. It does happen.

    One interesting point for those that live in Ada County. You can go to the County Assessors website and get pretty much the same info!

    By the way, I don’t think cops will use this feature that google offers. It isn’t reliable enough, and they can just drive by a house with a video camera if they really want this kind of information.

  11. As far as monetizing goes, with Google I imagine they will sell for advertising space on their views and put something like a “virtual billboard” on the side of buildings.

  12. It really is no different than someone driving around to check out a house. Real time info is much better anyway.

    Also if you are paranoid, you should be more concerned about Microsoft’s Birdseye view. You can get more information in my opinion.

  13. How do I ask for a retake? (Get those bushes pruned up nice, and the lawn mowed and fertilized, and Photoshop out the rusty 79 Chevy Monza sitting on cinder blocks in the side yard.)


  14. Col. Mustard
    Feb 25, 2008, 1:12 pm

    Pretty sure you can already get much more detailed information about your neighbors’, the mayor’s, and everyone else’s homes from the county assessor’s website. There’s been a much-ado-about-nothing in every city where this has been launched already.

  15. Just relax folks. You can have your house removed from the “street view” with a simple email to Google.

  16. If you have privacy concerns, Google Street View is the least of your concerns. At least a good chunk of the info they collect is free and available for you to check out. Most companies collect your information, keep it private, sell it to other companies for a profit, and force you to agree to let them do it. If you have a credit card, any store loyalty cards (Albertson’s Preferred Card, Fred Meyer Rewards Card, etc) or cookies on your computer from many major websites and companies, then you’ve agreed to just that.

    Business track what you buy, where you buy it and when you buy it, then sell that information to other advertisers so they can deliver more effective advertising to you.

    The privacy war is pretty much over.

  17. On a related note, if you enable the 3D layer in Google Earth you can fly into Downtown Boise and tilt the view into 3D where you will see almost all of Downtown Boise and can examine it from any angle. It’s actually quite fascinating, especially if you’ve never seen it. The vast majority of the buildings were created by Visual Genesis, but was fortunate enought to be able to have our Boise Depot Tower and Banner Bank Buidling models chosen by Google for inclusion into this layer. I imagine that in the near future we will see a mash-up by Google of Street View, Maps, and Google Earth all with accompanying “Virtual Billboards” (again, as stated by an above poster), and other related Google advertising. Personally, I find all of this very fascinating and am eager to see what comes next.

  18. Folks, don’t be scared of stuff like this. Be like most Idahoans and figure if you have nothing to feel guilty about or never committed a crime then what’s the problem? Your life should be an open book. I can’t wait until the computers get so much info on what we buy, think, where we live, they will understand us so much better. It’s all about our safety. Don’t you want to be safe….from terrorists?

  19. The Ada County Assessors Office’s web site has aerial views of your house along with the lot size, structure details and appraised values for the past seven years on line for anyone to see. I can actually check how many bathrooms you have there. They have a street view also if your house has sold or had construction permits that may have changed the value in the last few years. click on the interactive map for the pics. Very accurate, if a bit outdated. I sold that van a few years ago.

    EDITOR NOTE–And just WHO was visiting you that day while your wife was at work? 🙂

  20. I guess that I win the prize. The street view for my address shows me in my yellow Beetle driving down my own street. I am famous, and probably immortal. Thank you, Google.

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