22 March 2009

I love Street View

Have you found your house on Street View yet?

Mine's not on there as I live too far out of town, but yours is, and I've zoomed in to see just how untidy you are, whether you've got anything worth nicking, and if you're getting dressed in front of the window.

Or at least that's what some of the more hysterical tabloid journalists and commentators would have you believe.

Launched a few days ago in the UK as part of Googles plan to Map the entire planet, and the visible universe, there are now 25 cities in the UK where you can place yourself on a computer street and have a 360 degree view of the world around you.

Don't believe me? Here's where I went to school.

I can pan the camera round to the right and head up to the bus stop to wait for a ride home..

...or pan round to the left and head up the road for a lunchtime pint, for old times sake....

That's no bus stop......fond memories of hiding from the teachers at lunchtime, who were probably doing the same.

You can even see the old man sat outside, and nearly even the confused look on his face as the Google car with multiple mounted cameras drives past. The reason you can't quite see it is those clever people at Google have used face recognising technology to blur individuals, so there is no way of proving just who this is who sat down outside a pub for long enough for a car to drive past on an uncertain date in history (although no doubt Google know when the picture was taken, but it's not displayed anywhere).

But this isn't enough for self appointed saviours of privacy protection in the UK. Already Google have taken down pictures of a man walking out of a sex shop, and another blowing chunks outside a pub, following complaints of 'intrusion'. Another man has complained because there is a photo of him,taken from behind, with a sweaty back! He claims that hehad just returned from the gym (how did he know when it was taken?). As it's the drive of his house, it's clearly him, and now the rest of the world thinks he's a sweaty fucker?

Well guess what? Only your neighbours know it's you - we have no idea who you are. And if the sweaty cap fits, wear it. If you're really quite a fragrant, hygienic soul, then I'm sure all your mates will know that you've just been buffing up (but next time, please get washed and changed before you drive home Mr Stinky).

All acts occurred in public places, and probably weren't the first or last episodes for any of the gentleman. I could photograph them and stick them on my website - quite within my rights. But if people with blurred out faces can refuse to have their image displayed, are we walking down a slippery slope of censorship? With so many of us using digital cameras, and posting our pictures onto the web for all to see, what is to stop your genuine tourist snaps being censored simply because a complete stranger has spotted themselves in the background, scratching their bollocks?

And it doesn't stop there! The Daily Mail would have us believe that paedophiles are trawling Google Maps looking for houses with toys in the front garden so they know where to find children! Now I don't know any paedos, but I'm guessing they'd have to be either very fucking lazy, or very fucking stupid if their most effective way of stalking and plotting is to look at gardens street by street. America's version of Streetview has been available for a couple of years - plenty of time for kids to grow up or move house.

So I'm sure as time goes on, more and more images will be removed, and more and more will the average person no longer be allowed to point their camera where they damn well please in a public place for fear of offending anyone in the background having a bad hair day.

Google Street view is a fantastic application, either to just poke around at the haunts of your childhood, or to get your bearings of what a strange place looks like before you visit there. I had a virtual poke around Washington before I went last October - it really helped.

Don't let the self righteous right wing press ruin everyone else's fun. Go and have a play on it before your neighbour takes down your street because that's their mistresses car parked in their drive.

And for gods sake put some clothes on, I can see your arse.

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