An Amazing, Slightly Scary World

I’ve been playing around with Google’s new Street View application in Google Maps this morning and noticed that the entire city of Chicago is now available to see at street level view. So, I entered the address where I grew up on Spaulding Avenue and clicked on the street view button. Voila! My old neighborhood appeared on the screen. I had to pan around a bit (you can click on any image and do a 360 degree rotation) to find the exact house because the addresses are approximate, but it only took me a couple of minutes to find it. The old neighborhood looks pretty good – better than I remember it, frankly.

Google Street View
The house where I grew up in Chicago, as seen in Street View with Google Maps

As with any new technology, there’s good and bad. To develop this application, Google is working with Immersive Media, a company that has an eleven lens camera capable of taking full, high-res video while driving along city streets. Each captured pixel is geotagged and primed for consumer use. These are not just static images. It will also let you move along the street in a smooth manner and even more amazing it will let you change your angle and continue moving that way. However the inevitable embarrassing image was captured as the video was recorded – a woman’s thong exposed as she gets into her car; a man arriving late for work, with his car license plate in full view; a customer coming out of a strip club, etc. A new type of voyeurism – dubbed street spotting – has emerged from Google’s newest map app, forcing Google to black out spots in the video stream. It all begs the question of privacy – if the government had done this, I would be screaming bloody murder. Does it make any difference that a private sector business has done something that smacks of Big Brother? At this rate, it won’t be long before our lives will be there for anyone to see in real time, as if a camera lens was pointed at us 24/7.

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