By: Brock Knapp
With the Street View application in Google Earth, people can now travel around the world, view detailed directions, and visit historical land marks without leaving their computer. The Street View layer is arguably the most fun and useful application, which allows users to view a 360 degree panoramic view as if they were standing in the middle of the street. This unique feature is what makes Google Earth stand out from the other virtual globes. However, several people feel that the street view invades privacy by capturing pictures of them unaware and posting it for everyone to see. Google Earth should not be prosecuted of invading privacy when they are following laws by taking pictures from public areas and blurring out faces and license plates in order to conceal identity.
Several people don’t like the fact that there can be a picture taken of them at any moment and uploaded to the internet for anyone to see. The Street View, although not intentionally capturing people, does just this. People fear that they will be caught in an embarrassing location in one of the Street View photos. One aspect of privacy is being able to control what information is shared with others and what is not. Those that are photographed doing something that they don’t want shared on the internet may argue that there is an invasion of privacy but their argument has no support. Google Earth Street View takes pictures from the street which is in public. Not only is it legal to take pictures from any public area, but no one should be doing anything in public that they don’t want others to know.
The biggest complaint that Google Earth has received from their Street View application is that it has high enough resolution to identify the people captured in the pictures. This could be very dangerous because if people have been a victim of abuse or a part of the witness protection program, then having an identifiable picture and location could put them at risk. This would be a strong argument if not for the fact that Google Earth has already created a software that scans the pictures for faces and license plates and blurs them. In addition, they have an option where anyone can report a face that is not blurred so that it can be fixed. This is very beneficial because in case someone is photographed leaving an abortion clinic or adult store, then their identity is still hidden (Lavoic, 608). Google Earth is doing everything it can in order to make sure people can’t be identified in any of their pictures.
Overall, the arguments that Google Earth’s Street View is invading privacy are just a minor issue for Google. They have already blurred faces so people can’t be identified and they are taking pictures legally from public areas. The only lawsuit over privacy that Google Earth has lost from Street View, has been because the picture were taken on private property. Otherwise, the Street View application of Google Earth is a great piece of technology that provides enough benefits that it should not be taken away due to people feeling it’s invading privacy.
Kelley, J. D. (2008). A Computer with a View Progress, Privacy, and Google. Brooklyn Law Review, 74(1), 187-230.
Lavoie, A. (2009). The Online Zoom Lens: Why Internet Street-level Mapping Technologies Demand Reconsideration of the Modern-day Tort Notion of “Public Privacy.” Georgia Law Review 43(2), 575-616.
Segall, J. (2010). Google Street View: Walking the line of privacy–Intrusion upon seclusion and publicity given to private facts in the digital age. University of Pittsburgh Journal of Technology Law & Policy, 10(1), 1-32.