Street View Makes Immortals

October 11th, 2007 Leave a Comment

Google Maps rolled out the infamous Street View for six new cities this week: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Tucson. In typical Google fashion, they are touting this as more cities to explore, ignoring the creepy factor.

Having lived in and knowing people who currently live in several of these cities, I spent some time browsing. Sure enough, some people I know were captured by the roaming camera cars. That was a weird moment.

Google softened its policies for removing or obscuring identifiable characteristics, e.g. faces, license plates, after the initial launch of Street View. Still it’s very creepy to see someone you know immortalized like that.

I didn’t see myself, but didn’t put much effort into looking. I did find my car, parked in my driveway, so I’m probably cozy in my office, blogging. Just the other day, I saw one of the 360 degree camera cars parked near my gym. So, I figured we were coming soon to Street View, but I didn’t think it would be so soon.

I’ve used Street View to identify a hotel when I traveled, so it has utility. Being able to see where you’re going, rather than just knowing its location on a 2-D map is pretty powerful.

The use of satellite imagery in Google Maps and Microsoft Live Search spawned interwebs tourism. Sites like Bird’s Eye Tourist and Google Sightseeing collect the work of hundreds of contributors combing the images for cool stuff and anomalies. Street View offers a new outlet for virtual tourism.

The response I got from the person I know who was captured on Street View was “So, now people are going to make fun of me on the Internet.” To which I replied, “You’re not doing anything embarrassing.” This sentiment is real. Images of places taken from space are pretty impersonal. Images taken from the street are very personal, and whether you’re doing something noteworthy or not, it’s creepy.

What would you do if you saw one of the Street View cars driving down the street? Would you mug for the camera? Would you hide? Would you protest with a hand gesture or a moon? Are you immortalized on Street View? Do you know someone who is?

Sound off in comments.


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