Google Street View London Just Weeks Away

By M@ Last edited 118 months ago
Google Street View London Just Weeks Away

Seety: Good for probing back passages.

But while the debate continues over privacy issues, why has no one noticed that a similar service is already freely available?

Over the New Year, Google announced that its Street View technology will roll-out to London and other UK cities in the Spring. Finally. The enhancement to Google Maps offers 360 degree street-level panoramas at almost any point in any road. The technology is already available throughout the US, France, Japan and other countries, but has taken its precious time to reach these shores. One obstacle, as widely reported in the Telegraph, Mail and other UK newspapers, is the threat of legal action from privacy campaigners who object to Google publishing images of people — oblivious passers-by when the photos were taken — without their permission or knowledge. Opponents also claim that the service could be used by burglars or stalkers to digitally stake-out a target.

There are any number of arguments that make these concerns specious. In the first place, all faces and number plates are obscured, making identification tricky. This gives Street View an added level of privacy over long-established sites such as Flickr, which doubtless contains millions of shots showing unaware passers-by without face blurring. Even housebreakers would gain little advantage. You might find the occasional open window (as in our photo, top) but the images are, at best, a year old and give no indication of when a property might be unoccupied. Indeed, Street View can even help combat crime.

Such arguments, and counter-claims, have been thrashed out all over the internet and in the pages of newspapers. But there's a stable door open here, and the long-bolted horse has probably made it to the other side of Google's Earth by now (you can look for it in Street View Australia if you like). The Italian company Seety released their own independent street view of London back in October. Many an oblivious pedestrian is visible, and most of the property in Zones 1 and 2 can be scrutinised from multiple angles and zooms. While the mainstream media focuses on about the impending privacy intusion of Google's implementation, hardly any reporters seem aware that the technology and all it's perceived risk are already with us.

Last Updated 09 January 2009