Google has launched its remarkable Street View service of British cities to a mixed reaction.
Supporters of the technology marvel at its cleverness and talk about how the service can revolutionise how people research cities to visit and houses to buy. Opponents argue it invades individual privacy and is a potential security hazard. And then there are those that don’t see it as a big deal.
Street View is not new of course. It was launched in the US last year but British cities have only just become available to view online and this is what has sparked so much reaction on this side of the Atlantic.
I must admit that my personal view is also conflicted. Last year I delighted at being able to ‘virtually’ walk down streets in US cities. The Street View technology allowed me to appreciate these cities in a way that I could not have done previously. So on that basis the service is truly original and useful.
However, on the flip side I cannot help but feel that Google is also riding rough shot over individuals’ wishes. The company does say it will implement reasonable requests to remove pictures but is that the wrong way round? Should we have to tell Google to remove sensitive images? Or should they not be taking them in the first place?
The company does have the law on its side (Japan wont let it by the way) and it does make an effort to blur faces and number plates. But ultimately, are we losing a bit more of our privacy for a service that is only titillating not evolutionary and all because Google is preoccupied with the idea of ‘can we do it?’ over ‘should we do it?’?
The strength of the Internet is its amazing scope of potential. It has improved the human condition immeasurably over the years and Google has been at the heart of much of it. However, its virtues can also be wasted on rather pointless (if clever) applications. Which is Google Street View?