I wasn't ready for my close up!!My daughter rang me this morning.
The phone call went like this.
"Hi Mum, I think I have ESP. Who is that guy standing in your front garden?"
"What are you talking about?" I said. "What guy? Are you taking something you shouldn't be? Are you sleeping enough? Working too hard? What is going on?"
"No, I'm serious", she said, "I really want you to go and look outside in the front garden and see if someone is there".
So up I get, open the front door and look in the garden as directed (and don't ask the obvious question about why I do exactly what my daughter says, particularly when she lives on the other side of the country. It's just the way of the world and its too late to argue about it now...).
"No", I finally tell her. "I cannot see a man in the garden. Why are you asking me that?"
"No worries Mum, I'll send you a link which will explain all. Love you. Bye."
Just another one of those cryptic 2 minute phone conversations I sometimes have with my daughter (which mostly feature in my Message from your Mother posts).
Several minutes later, I get an email from her.
With just a link.
I click on it.
There is a picture of my home, with a truck parked out the front, cars in the driveway and what's that? There is a man standing in the front garden.
Welcome to the world of Big Google, private eye....
From yesterday, Australians can go beyond having a bird's eye view of their neighbourhood through the Google Earth service and zoom in to street level for a 360-degree view. It is not real time...yet!
The service, Google Street View Australia, is the result of a massive six-month photographic project covering hundreds of thousands of kilometres of roads.
Here is a link so you can see what I mean if you haven't already used this facility (not a link to my home or anyone else's - if you happen to know any addresses in Australia have a look or just key in Bondi Beach or the Opera House).
The scope of this service surpasses Google's efforts in France, where you can take virtual strolls along the Tour de France cycling route and in the US where it has mapped about 50 cities.
Many of the original photographs that were part of the US Street View launch were taken down following privacy concerns. They include a woman in a G-string, a man striding into an adult bookshop and a man relieving himself on a pavement.
Since then, Google has supposedly developed technology to blur faces and number plates in the Street View photos, although it acknowledges the automated process is not foolproof. Privacy conscious users who notice any potentially invasive images on Street View can report them to Google using an online form.
So let's see how good the technology is in disguising people.
Here is a partial picture of the house as seen on Google street view. Note the man in the front garden on the right.
OK, so you may find it hard to see him clearly. Well we can zoom closer ....much closer....now there, you can probably see him clearly now.... no, your eyes are not playing tricks...
now, if we zoom in closer to the veranda you will see this...err, um, very unattractive sight, not sure who that could be.......yes, it looks like a deer in the headlights it seems.
and then if we zoom to the left, we will see the next door neighbour Barry in his front yard doing goodness knows what... looks suspiciously like he is posing for the Google camera as he's out collecting his newspaper...oh for goodness sakes Barry..
I am too disturbed to do any more prying up and down the street - behind closed doors while sitting at the computer. I fear for what else I might see. But you can bet millions of Aussies are doing just that - looking up every address that they know around the country. I find it just a little bit creepy...and wrong.
And while it may be true that if George Clooney was really in my garden I may not be necessarily asking Google to take down those pictures, in all seriousness I think this new Google-aid is going to cause all sorts of privacy issues.
What do you think? Are you an American whose city already has Google street view?