The Daily Courier Logo
Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
7:21 PM Sat, Sept. 22nd

Are Google camera vehicles a breach of privacy?

This Google Maps Street View vehicle is filming streets throughout Prescott Valley this week. The colorful compact car features a high-tech camera unit on top that includes face-blurring technology, which makes sure people on the streets or driving by cannot be identified.

Photo by Richard Haddad/WNI

This Google Maps Street View vehicle is filming streets throughout Prescott Valley this week. The colorful compact car features a high-tech camera unit on top that includes face-blurring technology, which makes sure people on the streets or driving by cannot be identified.

magine you just stepped outside in your bathrobe to pick up the morning paper when you look up and realize you are being photographed.

This may have happened to you this week if you spotted the Google Maps Street View vehicle in your Prescott or Prescott Valley neighborhood. And as mapping technology such as this continues to progress there are some who believe it goes too far -- that it compromises personal privacy and security.

However, Google's Street View car has a high-tech camera unit on top that includes cutting-edge face-blurring technology, which makes sure people on the streets or driving by cannot be identified. License plates are also blurred.

What is Google Maps Street View

Google's Street View tool allows users to visually explore and navigate a neighborhood through 360-degree panoramic street-level photographs, as opposed to typical Google Maps shots, in which only a map of local streets is featured, according to Google Communications and Public Affairs spokeswoman Deanna Yick.

Street View vehicles contain nine directional cameras for 360° views at a height of about 8.2 feet and use GPS units and three laser range scanners for positioning.

To view images taken by the Street View Car, a Google Maps user can click on the orange "pegman" icon on the left-hand side of the map and drag it to the desired location. Users can also simply zoom into the lowest level on Google Maps or use the "Street View" link on the map pin marker. Use your mouse to click forward or turn your view 360 degrees.

Street View first became available on the Web in May of 2007, and can now be accessed in many cities in 27 countries throughout the world.

Breach of privacy?

Google Street View images are taken only on public property. The images available are no different from what you might see driving or walking down the street. Imagery of this kind is already available in a wide variety of formats for cities all around the world.

While any public information can be turned by devious characters for use on the dark side, this technology has many positive applications, the benefits of which I believe far outweigh perceived privacy violations. Street View maps can assist emergency responders, help consumers locate businesses, assist potential home buyers and investors, or just help the delivery driver find my house while the pizza is still hot.

But if you are a resident with privacy concerns because of something the Street View cameras have captured, or wish to contact Google to request images of your homes or cars to be further obscured, here is what you can do: Locate the Street View in question and click on the "Report a Problem" link at the bottom left-hand side of the Street View image. You can submit your request directly to Google. Google says they will promptly reply.

For a quick and easy sample Street View experience, visit www.google.com/streetview

To check out images of your neighborhood, log on to maps.google.com, and type an address into the search window at the top of the page.

Click here for a quick and easy sample Street View experience