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The Private Lives of Google Street View 3 June, 2007

Posted by paralleldivergence in Brad & Phil, Earth, funny photos, Google Earth, Internet, Life, Political Correctness, Street View.

I believe Google wants to be ubiquitous. It’s the world’s favorite search engine, cataloging every nook and cranny of the Internet and boasts more than 380 million unique visitors every month. Google’s AdSense and AdWords are “widely recognized as the Web’s most efficient advertising vehicles”. It now owns the world’s most popular video-sharing site, YouTube as well as the already popular Google Video and it’s revolutionized understanding of the planet’s geography through the release of Google Maps and Google Earth. Fortunately for us, Google’s mantra is “Don’t be Evil”.

Is Google Evil?

Now I can forgive past indescretions like “How Google Earth Killed Santa…“, because I for one was already pretty sure that Santa didn’t exist. But I’m somewhat worried about the intentions for Google Street View. I can understand how a Virtual Tourist who can’t afford a trip overseas might enjoy “wandering” down the streets of some of the world’s major cities and looking around at the sights. He or she may even like the authenticity of wandering around and “seeing” the locals going about their daily business. The question is, is the daily business of locals any business of the rest of the world?

Take this guy for example. Here he is, bending down to a bucket to wash his car. Some people might wonder whether he’s not at work because he’s currently on worker’s compensation after suffering a “crippling back injury” which stops him from doing any work. It’s not his fault the car got dirty.

Google Street View #1

Or what about this car with its license plate clearly visible, driving past the woman’s house that he’s been stalking everyday since he first saw her in the supermarket? Shouldn’t he be able to go about his business without Google and the entire world checking up on him?

Google Street View #2

This woman may be taking food to the homeless shelter across the street – or – maybe she’s called her work to say she’s sick and instead she’s gone clothes shopping. The way she’s jaywalking across the road, I’d tend to believe the latter might be true.

Google Street View #3

We’ve all heard about how the Taliban in Afghanistan dress as covered-up women to get into crowded areas and blow themselves up. If it can happen in Kandahar, why couldn’t it happen in San Francisco? You can hide a lot of stuff under a trench coat.

Google Street View #5

Is this guy a good samaritan or does he have more evil intentions for the unsuspecting woman with car trouble? I remember recently reading a story in the newspaper about a woman’s body found in the boot of an abandoned car in the Bay area.

Google Street View #4

“Little girl, you don’t have to worry that I have jeans on one leg and shorts and a leg warmer on the other leg. If you come with me, I’ll give you some candy!”

“Candy? OK, Mister!”

Google Street View #6

Now with this one, I know that it’s a drug deal going down – the only thing I don’t know is which drug is it? Grass? Coke? Heroin? Judging by the facial deformations, I’m guessing it’s probably Ice. If Google had any conscience they would have pulled up the van and got this woman down to Narcanon and into Scientology as quickly as possible.

Google Street View #7

Finally, this guy is just super-suspicious. Not only is he standing in the exact same position in three separate shots, but I’m guessing that cannister on his back holds a disassembled high-powered rifle. Furthermore, I think he’s spotted us!

Google Street View #8

A couple of years ago, Google Earth appeared and allowed us to spy into our friends’ and neighbors’ backyards. With Google Street View, now we can spy into their windows and cars. Just like Brad & Phil, maybe we should all be on the lookout for the Google Street View van.  What do you think?

Brad & Phil #21



1. Geoff - 4 June, 2007

Hilarious – and creepy. Taking a “walk” down Street View, it’s easy to see how you can make up your own story about these people’s lives that have suddenly been given a worldwide audience. It is a concern that many of the people seen can actually be “found” at the addresses shown on top of the Street View window. Nice site BTW.

2. paralleldivergence - 4 June, 2007

Thanks Geoff. That is a concern. It’s not only the people, it’s their cars and their addresses. There have been many complaints, but Google say they’ve had to remove very few images. It’s still early days.

3. 21st Century Skills - 5 June, 2007

My Favorite Brad and Phil yet. Go Ben.

4. tobeme - 9 June, 2007

Great stuff. I love your sense of humor! Now, pardon me why I go and Google my street.

5. paralleldivergence - 11 June, 2007

Thanks tobeme. It looks like Google have started blocking out some objectionable images from Street View:


6. Rachel Boyd - 14 June, 2007

Amazing stuff!

Have not yet tried Street View.. I imagine “people watching” could get quite addictive too if I am procrastinating and wanting something to occupy myself!

Been a while since I’ve been on Google Earth, photos of where I live in New Zealand (Nelson) were very poor when I first looked and since then have improved slightly…. but not to that degree!

A virtual tourist! Now that’s a neat idea 🙂

Cheers, Rachel, NZ

7. paralleldivergence - 14 June, 2007

Hi Rachel! Welcome to Parallel Divergence – my little “critical thinking” manifesto. 🙂 I visited the south island a couple of years ago and did the Christchurch-Dunedin-Te Anau-Milford Sound-Queenstown-Wanaka-West Coast to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers-Greymouth-back to Christchurch rental car drive. Best trip I’ve ever been on. You’re so spoiled down there.
We’re actually heading back there in December to go north from CC to Picton, then ferry to the North Island and go all around there. She who must be obeyed has relatives in Auckland. Should be another great trip through your wonderful country.
I remember Google Earthing the South Island back then. It was all just a blur of mainly green. I should recheck it. But don’t hold your breath for the Google Street View Van in Nelson… 🙂
Hope you like the site. And thanks for the great inspirational work that you and your class of Millennials are doing.

8. Dhiraj - 17 June, 2007

No doubt google is trying to touch all apects of our lives. Personally, I think it is a good thing, even if it comes at a price. I respect the privacy part of it, but let us give them some more time.

9. sturgo - 18 June, 2007

If everyone just assumes the worst about everyone else we shouldn’t have any major problems.

Google Earth = contempt prior to investigation.

10. loljesus - 18 June, 2007

Yeah. Google Street View freaks me out, too.

11. paralleldivergence - 18 June, 2007

Hi Dhiraj, the actual privacy concerns about this are pretty limited, but as you can see in this article, you can make up whatever you like based on the images taken. I for one use several Google services on a daily basis and I’m not charged for any of them, so who am I to complain? Sturgo, you make a great point. Imaging the worst, and when it doesn’t live up to it, we’ll be relieved. As for LOLJesus, your site’s a hoot. I was getting quite bored of the cats. If Jesus were alive today, I’m sure he’d have a chuckle or two.

12. cuzoogle - 18 June, 2007

that is just creepy. I better do my hair before leaving the house all the time now.

13. ruyz - 19 June, 2007

i saw some people fighting it was awsome

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15. LRH - 9 February, 2008

The Church of Scientology is an evil mind-controlling cult.

I hope your suggestion to take somebody there was tongue-in-cheek.

16. jeopardygame - 9 February, 2008

Hey LRH, the whole thing’s a comedy piece. See you at the protest Feb 10!

17. Jonathon - 8 May, 2008

All trivializing humor aside, hasn’t anyone thought about the security issues? If Google is allowed to publish a closeup of your home, viewable from three sides, then local criminals can case the joint from the comfort of their livingrooms. At least when they have to do so in person, they stand a chance of being identified as potential crooks by you, your neighbors, and the local police. So much for the efficacy of the neighborhood watch. Google’s “service” is helping to make it a historical footnote.

18. jeopardygame - 8 May, 2008

Interesting perspecitve Jonathon. “Casing the joint” could certainly be easier with Streetview, or maybe you could call it “window shopping from home”?

I think a lot of new technologies are making huge paradigm shifts, taking people out fo their comfort zones.

19. Jonathon - 10 May, 2008

Intersting perspective Jeopardygame. That Google virtual surveilance of individual homes is nothing more than a “paradigm shift”. Something tells me that your tune would change if your home were situated so that your child’s window were imaged in the detailed manner in which Google has done for many, many others. I suspect that you increase your income using Google. Otherwise you wouldn’t be so cavalier. It takes a certain degree of moral vacuity to support the intrusive actions that this neo-comm big-bother company has quietly accomplished.

20. paralleldivergence - 10 May, 2008

Hey Jonathon. Just wondering if Google StreetView is in your city? Most of the cities that have it are a mass of houses and businesses. Scrolling through the streets is quite slow and the chance of any particular house being targetted directly from Steet View is probably is probably similar to winning a lottery. (BTW, have a read of this: https://paralleldivergence.com/2007/03/28/the-best-fool-is-an-april-fool/ 🙂 )

Most burglars are opportunists. Most kidnappers identify a child before they identify a house.

We’ve had street directories ever since we’ve been driving. We have Sat-Navs and now we have Google Earth and Street View. We’re just moving to the next level. Some people just don’t like changing levels – or pushing boundaries. As it says in the article, fortunately Google’s mantra is “Do No Evil”. 😉

21. Jim - 11 May, 2008

I actually found myself walking the streets.


22. Jonathon - 12 May, 2008


Yup it sure is…That’s how I discovered it. I saw “street view” and said to myself “Hey, what’s this?” When I clicked the Street View button, I discovered what I talked about earlier on.

If you’re looking for a sense of humor…sorry I lost it on this issue, so please, move on if you want to make a joke and let it happen. I no longer have a laugh about it to share…

The problem with your argument about arbitrary use of Street view and criminal activity is that burglaries ARE crimes of opportunity. And most burglaries are committed by people who live relatively close to where they operate. Give them another tool and they’ll use it, especially one as easy to use as this one. All you have to do is enter an address and voila, you’re there. No tedious browsing necessary….And what’s sort of galling to me in seeing your comment about the difficulty of using street view is that if you’re at all familiar with Google Earth. you already knew that. And so do many people, criminals included. Hmm…Maybe you haven’t got access…If you’re in the US, you do, though from your tone (Mum for mom) in writing it’s possible that you don’t have a clue and think it’s all just a big downtown scenario generator for tourists…Well, if you’re in the UK or somewhere they haven’t hit yet, or if your local privacy laws restrict the resolution, etc., I’ll clue you in… it’s not. My own community is a smallish suburb near mumblemumble in the wonderful state of mumble, USA, and they apparently photographed my entire city. Looking at my home is like standing outside, ~10 feet from the house and turning around to face it. Clear as glass. I have yet to meet anyone who even knew they’d been here in mumblemumble, let alone what they’d done.

Second, the “get used to new technology” argument doesn’t really hold water either. In the US, We have audio recorders, yet in most cases we cannot tape a conversation and use it in legal matter without having already told the other party that we’re taping them, and without having proof that they are a willing participant in that recording. We have guns, but contrary to the popular belief spread by Hollywood, we can’t just carry them wherever we want nor use them to defend ourselves whenever we feel like it. We have fire, but we cannot just light one wherever we want. There are other examples, but I’m not going to list them ad infinitum…However, it is sufficient to say that all these were new tech at some point. (okay, so the fire example stretches it a bit in time…)

Further, freedom of speech DOES have its limits. For instance, in the US, you cannot slander someone without legal recriminations, (aside from public officials that is) and you cannot shout FIRE in a crowded theater without fear of going to jail for inciting a riot. We all have bodies but we’re not allowed to run around naked…And photography has its limits…Note that the 1st amendment arguments that protect photographers never envisioned this kind of unprecidented usage, though from their response to the matter, “There are no privacy issues with Google Street View” – Lars Rasmussen, Google’s head architect for street view) it’s clear the legal findings need serious review and modification…And if I’m not mistaken, eventually, you’ll be surprised to find that limits will be placed on Google and other neo-comm companies for things like this as well. Like it or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a luddite. As a matter of fact, though it shouldn’t make any difference whether I have a doctorate in Physics or I’m a baker, I make my living in technology (specifically engineering) and have a profound interest in tech matters, programming, computers, space, chemistry, biology, medicine, amongst others (too long to list), giving over to hours of reading tech articles rather than to hitting a bar (pub?) or going out to blow my cash on a sports event… In fact, I pushed the telephone company and cable services hard for high-speed internet services in my area of the country long before it became a ubiqitous feature of life, calling them over and over to voice my desire and argue why we should have it (early 1990s). But there are limits to technonology and there are limits to the rights of photographers and especially their commercial sponsors. I believe that people publishing detailed photos of the entrances and windows of my home for their commercial profit value go well beyond those limits.

Had they bothered to make it opt in, this wouldn’t be an issue for me. If you or someone else chooses for them to have a Street view of their home, that’s great…I’m fine with that. You can go so far as to hook up a webcam and transmit your private life for all to see, for all I care. You can share your farts and your nose picking, hell, you can even publish detailed analysis of the security short-comings of your home, along with a list and valuation of your personal assets, (including locations thereof), pictures of your children and the women in your life to help the criminal determine whether they’re worth assaulting (or worse)…Publish your SS # and bank account info, any special passwords and usernames a criminal might want to use…makes no difference to me. (okay…I think I might just send you some really, truly ugly emails if I saw you providing that level of details, just on an academic basis, if not combined with a self-eval form for psychosis) But ultimately, that decision is YOUR choice, not mine…However, when you or anyone start telling me that I have no choice but to be a part of your brave new world, allowing you to spy on me and compile data that can be used to cause me and mine physical harm… well then, Big Bro, we have a problem.

Regarding your final comment about Google’s motto, it’s obviously a crock. They would like people to believe that the government is the problem, when in fact it has been shown by their actions in regards to Street View (and in other areas) that they are alot more of the problem than they want people to know about. I have seen way too many conflicting statements from Google about how much of a hero it is in privacy rights, followed by some unforseen detail (China comes to mind as well recent dicoveries as to how their personal information storage really works), followed this quiet acquisition and distribution of their “Virtual casing tool” images without prior notification and authorization by property owners, to believe in their veracity on Privacy rights. Personally, I want to see them apologize profusely and remove the service, pending authorization by each and every home’s occupant. This they’ll never do (and in writing this I’m sure there will be many of your readers who’ll want to respond with “crackpot” comments…to which I have a favorite one finger response and a two word reply…clue: it ends with “off”, though it’s sometimes followed by a third word that ends in “hole”)

It’s easy for the wealthy and others who think they are safe from these kinds of activites to respond with trumpeted calls of freedom-of-speech and unwarranted indictments of neo-luddism. Alot easier than facing the fact that they’re either an active or unwitting part of the problem, by actively participating in the creation of Big Brother or knowingly watching it happen without fighting it. Google’s head lawyer wants everyone to believe that the US government is the Big Brother we should worry about… Government my ass…more likely the same old problem. Greedy elitists. “You exist, so I have an inalienable right to profit from you”

In any case, I complained to Google (discovered that Street View “Help” in the upper right-hand corner is where one has to go to complain about an offensive image, although the directions for removing the offensive material are only contained in a subsequent email from Google, following their determination as to whether the images are potentially risky to them) and after several days they’ve finally responded… If all goes well I will soon have a virtual vacancy where their unwarranted surveillance images once stood. If things work the way they claim, that is…Clearly, they see the writing on the wall or it would not have been possible to remove it…I’m tenatively glad for that much, but I’m also urging other people I know to do the same thing I’ve done. They snuck in without any advance warning and surveilled my home and millions of other homes. People just don’t know yet. Hell, I’m a tech freak and I didn’t know for at least six months… But when they do, I just hope they don’t lay down and cry “bahhhhhhhhhhh” like the sheep that the brave new world’s architects think we’re supposed to be.

BTW, I read the April-fool article, and while I’ll admit that I laughed (thank you), as Gomer Pile once said…Shame, Shame, Shame on you!

23. paralleldivergence - 12 May, 2008

Ha ha! Well done Jim.

I really love this one: http://tinyurl.com/6h6l8m

When you go there, click North. 🙂

24. paralleldivergence - 12 May, 2008

Hi Jonathon,

You make some very valid points about the issues surrounding Street View. While they haven’t broken any laws in doing this (maybe laws need to change), I guess the proof will be in the pudding. Will crime rates increase as a result of this? Will there statistically be more people taking up burglary because they are motivated by the virtual shopping Street View can provide?

While you can apply to get your house blanked out (censored), maybe it would be more intriguing to “Street View Walkers” (slow-paced walkers mind you), if they see a grayed-out blob on their screen in the place where YOUR house is. They might just take a drive to see what they might have otherwise ignored.

Thanks for your comments. BTW, Mum’s (mom’s) over it now 🙂

25. aj - 30 May, 2008

i like google images. 🙂 😉 =)

26. Geoff B - 11 August, 2008

Interesting article from Australia on the instroduction of Street View there very recently.


27. ThKr - 9 January, 2009

I just found a photo of a guy taking a photo of a woman from behind with a mobile phone minutes ago!!!! I think its a great find 🙂


28. paralleldivergence - 9 January, 2009

Well done ThKr! If you go up Chestnut St one notch and take another look at them, you’ll see she’s either posibng for him, or she busted him! 🙂

29. JH688 - 24 June, 2009

hmmmm Jonathan i find your statement stupid criminal won’t “case your joint” from street view.
firstly the reason criminals “case a joint” is to find out about there mark for example a house when nobody’s home how long nobody’s home this alone cannot be done from street view as they are pictures not live feeds i would just put that down to your own crazy paranoia.
secondly there are negative things about street view just like there are positive things as there is with anything.
thirdly please get a life i find if you have the time to type out 50 paragraphs in your comment you obviously have no life and just sit and complain about stupid pointless things. how about complaining about something worse and more important i hear the whales are in need of some help 🙂 have a nice day

paralleldivergence - 24 June, 2009

Yeah, I don’t think Jonathan likes Street View…

30. EDITORIAL – Google’s expanding (evil?) empire | GadgetMETER - Meet the Coolest Gadgets - 8 July, 2009

[…] to Parallel Divergence for the […]

31. MissZoeLaLa - 26 April, 2010

So Jonathan, had your house broken into yet?

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