Google Maps Street View and Privacy

When you consider the privacy concerns — freakouts, really — that were raised when the online map sites made satellite and aerial imagery readily available, it’s not surprising that there would be similar concerns raised about the street-level imagery announced by Google yesterday. I am surprised, though, that it took a whole day for it to surface: Boing Boing shares a reader’s concern that at maximum zoom, you can see her cat in her window. Other examples were given in follow-up comments: people on sidewalks, cars (and licence plates) in driveways.

Legally speaking, in many countries there is no expectation of privacy when you’re out in public. You can’t stop someone from taking your picture on the street, for example, or from taking a picture of your house and putting it online. And anyone driving down your street would see your house, your car in the driveway and your cat in the window. If you’re concerned about that, you should hide your stuff from public view regardless of whether street-level images exist for mapping applications.

(I just hope people don’t think these images are real-time, like many people seem to with aerial photography.)

(Postscript. There is apparently a way to notify Google if an image infringes on privacy.)