Google Street View: Privacy concerns vs. the benefits

by Mru Kodali on 26 May 2009

Google’s been refused permission to even roam the streets to collect images for its Street View service in Greece due to privacy concerns. In Japan, it’s been forced to re-collect data as the original pictures pried into people’s backyards. And in Germany, Hamburg officials are seeking guarantees that raw image data will be deleted once identifiable information’s been blurred out. The UK launch a couple of months ago seems plain sailing in comparison.

streetviewSome of us are using Google Street View to make our lives easier by:

  • Checking out an area when flat hunting before deciding to go for an in-person viewing
  • Verifying the location of client offices, a restaurant or shop so you know which way to go once there
  • Making sure you know what the building looks like so you recognise it when in the vicinity

It’s not inconceivable that this technology may soon become indispensable just as sat nav. has for in-car navigation. Are privacy concerns akin to growing pains that we go through before accepting new technology that’s different? RFID tags faced privacy objections but are commonplace in many stores now. Even the Internet faced privacy concerns but privacy activitists themselves have now adopted this technology to spread their message.

I wonder if it’s just a matter of time before Greek citizens demand the conveniences afforded by Street View. How much of our privacy are we willing to compromise in exchange for the benefits of new technology? Or is our view and definition of privacy changing in this fast-paced age of technological development that we’re not really succumbing our rights?

It’d be interesting to see if the reaction’s different in other cultures if the launch should ever expand to cover more of the planet.

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