Google Street View
Since Google Street View was launched last week it has proved addictive. So at least if the Information Commissioner is successful at shutting it down, then it will at improve my productivity and mean I can get on and do other things. However it would also be a huge shame that a really interesting and useful tool was forced offline because of a few initial problems.
I expect if I was one of the people who had been caught in a compromising postition and then spotted by work colleagues I might feel differently. But it is not that different from me taking a photo in the street and then posting it online. In fact with the advent of websites like Flickr and Picasa that’s exactly what thousands of people do including myself. It’s just that not as many people will be viewing them and so there is less chance of identifying someone they know.
I expect in the case of Street View the huge numbers of people using the website in the first few days will have found most of the bits that need a bit more blurring out and after that it will go quiet. After all, to find someone you know it would have to be either a huge coincidence or you would have to know where they were at a particular time and place, and if anyone is getting up to something they shouldn’t be doing near a location where friends are likely to be looking then that seems particularly foolish in the first place.
I have however so far identified one person that I know – my parents’ next door neighbour. But as he is gardening in front of his house (as he is most weeks of the year) and as I spent nearly all of my childhood living in the house next door it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I recognise him. I was actually almost disappointed that I didn’t spot myself as I remember seeing the Google car going past my office, but I don’t appear on Street View and so they can’t have been filming at the time. But despite all of this, the thing that proved strangest for me about Street View was recognising the street corner that BBC News had used on the front page of their website as the link to an article about the website. From a small photo showing only a small bit of road and wall I recognised it as the corner of Botanical Road and Ecclesall Road in Sheffield which is a place I walk past regularly – why anyone at the BBC should pick that location of all of those across the country I have no idea.