Wednesday 6 August 2008

Not Happy Google

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 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?


  1. Lilly your just too funny. your cryptic call from your daughter sound like something I'd get from my sister. I gave you an award, you can get it at my blog. G'Day.

  2. Thanks Eric. Too much fun it is. I am about to leave the house, hair and makeup perfect, ready and waiting this time for that damn Google camera.....

  3. Lilly, you have been on a roll for the past week, that cracked me up. George clooney at the bottom of your garden indeed.I think it is good to do this for businesses, tourist attractions and hotels but definitley not private residences. What if you were in a domestic violence situation and your car was spotted somewhere, or someone was having an affair or you had an abusive partner and they saw a man in your garden. Who was the man, did you know him?

  4. Oh sh!! Does that mean when it comes to Ireland I wont be able to sunbathe in the nude any more ?
    Although with the weather we've been having recently it would be more like torrential rain bathing.

  5. Sarah - you are right I believe its an invasion of people's privacy wehn you home is up there for the world to see. I cannot see the point. yes the man was the gardener ha ha,hence the truck.

    Jon - you irish I tell you - no Jon it would mean you would have to curtail your ways - good job you do not drink then..hopefully you wont get this in the UK.

  6. I think your daughter is very joyous, so that you are.

  7. Dear dear Lilly, this post CRACKED me up!!!! You are SO cleaver and funny. I love you!

    I also agree with you. The first time I was shown Google mapping I freaked. This is WAAAAAY too much like BIG BROTHER is watching you. It's SO sci-fi that I can hardly believe it. Someone is sure to make a movie or doc about this as it has just sort of happened overnight and a lot of people don't yet know about it.

    What is the next step? Government = Google? Or are we already there? The problem is that young people growing up with computers, cell phones, instant contact, etc. might now even think twice about it. But older generations I think will notice more. Maybe I'm wrong. But this seems scarily invasive, especially in terms of where it could lead.

    A great post!! You are firing on all cylinders. I've missed being her and have been running way behind. I was so glad to see you on my blog and read your very thoughtful comment. You are wise as well as funny. Also I just love the interactions between you and your daughter on these posts. They are a riot! Hugs, Robin

  8. A coworker of mine was showing me the high technology of mapping the earth from up and yonder. He used his house as an example. He was showing and explaining the different details of his house, when I asked him whose car it was that was entering his driveway. He said, he didn't recognize it. I chuckled at that. He didn't think it was funny. Hehe.

  9. ha ha so cute.

  10. well , ur daughter is adorable.

  11. that is scary but you made me laugh - we live in battleaxe so I hope they didn't get our street view .Boring.
    I shall have to check it out.
    I wouldn't mind George in my garden either.
    Thanks again for all your kind support. I am indebted to you

  12. Thanks all for your comments - I have had the flu and just catching up with all the comments.

  13. Yup, American here and sure enough my whole neighborhood is on there. The neighbors cars, my parents old van ~ I am both mortified and fascinated all at once. Really puts in perspective what a massive company google must be. And scary.

  14. @ ladybanana - thanks for dropping by. Yes I think it's a great idea if used well as long as things like faces and number plates are not clear - actually I used it to see where my daughter lives as well as I havent visited her yet so I never thought about being able to do that in another country too.

    @ katherine - thanks for stopping by - wow that's interesting - little bit scary if you get to see that much. Problems I foresee are in domestic violence cases where perhaps cars could be spotted at residences. Yes Big Brother Google is an almighty power now....


Thanks for your comments.