Saturday, December 29, 2007

I Waved at My son on Google Street Maps and Yelled at Him to Put on His Shirt!

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Copyright: jcorn

Alerted by a neighbor, I went over to Google maps recently to see the recent updates there. This wasn't my first visit to the site. I'd seen aerial views of our home before, the kind you might see in a private plane or helicopter. They were kind of nice but not particularly detailed. I liked to look at them now and then, figuring that was as close to being viewed by celebrity photographers as our family was going to get, unless they had a slow news day. We don't sunbathe nude, abuse our kids or pose for photographers - or so I thought.

But I got a jolt when I saw our home this time around. Here's how I did it. First, I went to Google maps at and then I typed in our street address. From there, I got an approximate address. I then clicked on the street view screen which happened to go to a home only a few houses from our home. At that point, I went to the left side of the page and simply scrolled north and south to find our home. And there it was - at street level- in full detail. Not just one shot, either, but several photos, apparently taken from different angles and on different days. Gee, I guess we were more interesting to photographers than I thought.

I took a closer look. Wait a minute! Who was that person in our driveway?It was our son, no shirt on, looking directly at the cameraman (or woman). Yes, our driveway. Until that moment, I always thought street view meant "in the street." But apparently a street view means that Google can take a photo of our home and family members - as they did - as long as the person behind the camera is actually in the street.

If you feel confused by all this, you are not alone. I was so surprised that I actually tried to wave to my son and even made gestures to indicate that he should turn around, consider throwing on a shirt and not actually look as though he was posing for the camera. Yes, he was looking right into the camera with a puzzled expression. I know he had a puzzled expression because I asked him and he actually remembered seeing a stranger taking photos of him, not an everyday experience for us (as noted, we aren't famous).

I haven't been able to enlarge the photo more but I intend to, just as some other person might do while cruising on the internet, perhaps someone scoping out our neighborhood before buying our home. Call me odd but I wasn't exactly pleased that just. anyone could have seen that shot of my son, shirtless. I could decide to make a link to the actual image or page if I wanted and could even email that to anyone else. Gee, how....unprivate our lives suddenly seemed.

I'm not alone when it comes to feeling uncomfortable with Google maps. A neighbor wasn't too happy about the photo they took of her while she was gardening, not exactly dressed for company, with her backside bent towards the camera (she has lost weight since then but that shot wasn't the motivation). Now her "before" photo is there for all the world to see, not a pleasant experience for her, although it has helped her keep off the pounds. Even so, she isn't happy with the photos.

It could have been worse because she was wearing a swimming suit top that day, not a scanty one but still more revealing than she would have displayed to the internet or even while going shopping. She actually assumed she was in the privacy of her front yard in a quiet neighborhood with very little traffic...and it was a very hot day. She won't make that mistake again.

As I scrolled up and down the street using Google Street View, I realized that someone had taken not one shot but several photos of our home and of the neighboring houses. I knew this because our son was in all of the photos and in each one he had on a different shirt and pants. I know my son well enough to realize that he doesn't generally change into three sets of clothes in a typical day, especially not the bright, sunny days shown on Google Street View.

This was a bit more detail than I liked. Perhaps you feel the same. Another writer brought up the possibility of Google street maps and privacy rights as well as invasion of privacy. You can see that article here: I highly recommend it as the writer brings up the various issues when it comes to privacy and security issues. When I read that article, our street hadn't yet appeared in such detail.

I have to admit it was one thing reading about the theoretical use of Google Street View and then seeing our own home - and son - in actual photos. I didn't like the fact that anyone could link to that page or email the shots. It creeped me out.

The result? When I'm outside in the garden this summer and hear a car drive by, I'll be wondering just who is inside it and whether or not that person has a camera. My private life suddenly seems a lot less private than it did before.

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Writing credit:
Donna Talarico, Associated Content