Launched in 2007, Google Street View was Google's most ambitious mapping effort yet. The program aimed to provide 3D views of city streets. In order to do this, Google sent out a fleet of automobiles and bikes across different countries mapping out regions, street by street.
The result was a resounding success; to date it has provided 3D views in many countries -- United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. However, as Google recently discovered, not every is a fan of its unique web application.
When Google's Street View car rolled into the little UK village of Broughton, north of London, they were greeted by angry locals. Apparently, the residents of the affluent town feared that the Street View images of their community would give burglars the ideal tool to scout out the neighborhood for robberies.
Describes Paul Jacobs to The Times of London, "I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane. My immediate reaction was anger: How dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime."
He continues, "This is an affluent area. We've already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks. If our houses are plastered all over Google it's an invitation for more criminals to strike. I was determined to make a stand, so I called the police."
The residents called the police, which escorted the Google car out of town. A Google spokesperson commented on the incident, "Embarking on new projects, we sometimes encounter unexpected challenges, and Street View has been no exception. We know that some people are uncomfortable with images of their houses or cars being included in the product, which is why we provide an easy way to request removal of imagery. Most imagery requests are processed within hours.”
The spokesperson adds, "We take privacy very seriously, and we were careful to ensure that all images in our Street View service abide by UK law."
Google has taken to removing images and blurring peoples' faces and license plates in Street View to protect privacy. However, the British incident is far from the first problem the endeavor has encountered.
Street View in particular has yielded embarrassment for criminals and law abiding citizens alike, catching people committing crimes or behaving in embarrassing ways