What part of your privacy does Google StreetView encroach upon?

Google StreetView car by I See Modern Britain

Google StreetView car by I See Modern Britain


Right from the start I’ve been fairly dismissive of privacy concerns over Google StreetView.

In my view, Google are just snapping what any general member of the public can see in that place at that time anyway. It’s already “in the public domain”, so to speak.

I haven’t had the fortune to come across a staunch opposer to StreetView yet, but if I did, as I commented over at MySociety, I would ask them, “What part of your privacy goes Google StreetView encroach upon exactly?”

Sunbathing naked in your back garden? I’m your neighbour, I can see you out my window…

Walking to the shops? I’m walking my dog, I see you. We even pass each other on the pavement and say hello.

Leaving an adult video store? You’re in public, the public will see you. If you don’t like being seen, stay at home and order off the internet or by phone.

Are you an anti-StreetView kinda person? Tell me exactly what it is that makes you uncomfortable about StreetView. Am I being too dismissive, missing the point etc?

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6 responses to “What part of your privacy does Google StreetView encroach upon?”

  1. Warren Avatar

    I’m for Street View. It is a still image of an area at a single moment (when the car is passing).

    Everyday we are subject to CCTV and in many places even subject to Webcams. Do people complain when being streamed on the BBC website whilst shopping at the Bullring? I dont think so, although that may have more to do with not knowing.

    Google are subject to complaints because of the publicity given to it by media, who are probably more guilty of encroaching our privacy. Maybe they are scared of what Google might do next?

  2. Mru Kodali Avatar
    Mru Kodali

    I imagine the underlying issue being the persistence of those moments in time. If you’re walking out of an adult store and are concerned about being seen, normally you might worry about getting out of the store and onto the main street without being seen. However, what Google Street View has done is permanently captured those moments so it’s not just people who happened to be around at that moment who could see you but anyone with internet access at any time from anywhere.

  3. Philip John Avatar

    True, the persistence does add an extra layer. I would argue though that if a friend were to see you that would have more of an impact. So there is still the argument that if you don’t want to be seen, don’t do it.

    Why do something if you’re ashamed of doing it? In my opinion, people should be comfortable with themselves and be unashamed of anything they do. That either means not being influenced by the perceptions of others or changing their attitude.

    Though, I wish it was that simple.

  4. Adrian Short Avatar

    Google Street View, while in no way the worst kind of privacy invasion, is a step in the direction of a society in which all privacy is lost. I think this is inevitable. Consequently, some injustices will be uncovered and some prevented, which will be good, but in the main we will be a coarser society in which we will be less able to balance the private and public aspects of our lives.

    Total surveillance comes about as an aggregation of tools and technologies, not any one particular system. While where I go and what I do from the moment I leave my front door to the moment I return to it isn’t secret, it’s generally my private business and not anyone else’s. Some people may catch glimpses of it, such as bumping into friends and acquaintances in the street. But that’s a different thing from having someone follow you around all day, obsessively cataloguing your movements and activities and making them available for all the world, in real time, and forever. Street View is essentially a prototype of such a system.

    It is the ubiquity and aggregation of digital surveillance that is qualitatively different from the pre-internet age where it was simply not possible to record, store and globally publish everyone’s activities. Google’s stated mission is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. I note that they make no distinction between information that traditionally has been considered private from that which has been traditionally public.

  5. cctv kits Avatar

    I dont see there being a major privacy problem, google blurs out you face, yes you can be identified if you are in your back garden but the images are so small its not going to make a difference.

  6. CCTV Systems Avatar

    While I think that Street View is fantastically clever, I still think there is some part of it that I don’t agree with, I’m not sure what. I just saw my house on there for the first time. It was exciting to see, but I can imagine a burglar would have a field day making use of all this new technology and finding the best places to hit. It sort of feels like I’m giving out the keys to intruders, without any permission. Thanks Google.

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