Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Street views

Google’s Street View has now gone live in New Zealand, the seventh country to get it, and, predictably, some are suggesting it’s the end of civilisation. Of course, they’re mistaken.

Street View is a subset of Google Maps (maps.google.co.nz), in which the user enters an address and chances are good that a street-level photograph is available. The USA and other countries have had it for awhile, but Google’s “photograph everything” cameras have only been in New Zealand a relatively short while.

On tonight’s news, I saw a woman who’s made money from books and TV appearances built on her profession as a private eye, bemoaning the introduction of Street View as something that will make it easier for criminals. Yeah, whatever. It never seems to occur to these wowsers that there are perfectly legitimate uses for technology like Street View, and—perhaps more importantly—we must never restrict our freedoms based upon what some miscreant “might” do. If we stop ourselves because of them, then the miscreants win.

I suppose I can afford a somewhat cavalier attitude, since these views are quite literally street views, and don’t go down driveways where many houses in our city are to be found. The Street View for one house we used to live in shows a man pushing a wheelbarrow as part of construction work (which, by the way, looks hideous; bet they ruined the inside, too). So, many people’s houses won’t be shown at all, and many others risk only having their bad taste exposed to the world.

Technology is neither good nor bad—the use it’s put to that determines that. For me, right now Google’s Street View is mostly entertainment. One thing it definitely is not is the end of all civilisation. See, I have a little more perspective than some, apparently.


d said...

Interesting! Just *had* to google our address, and through one window, you can see our coats hanging up. Weird! Darren doesn't like it AT ALL.

I think it will be helpful for parties, though.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

A lot of people don't like it, nor the growing use of surveillance cameras, for that matter. But what you mentioned is one perfectly legitimate use of Street View: When you're going somewhere unfamiliar, it would be handy to be able to see what your destination looks like.