Trouble for Street View?

With the preponderance of sites for viewing ortho photos (straight down view), oblique photos (angled or "bird's eye" view), and "street view" photos of homes and communities, I've been long awaiting outrage from the general public. I think there hasn't been enough public awareness of just how much information about their property is accessible, both in image and database forms.

For some reason, Google Street View seems to be a turning point. I've noted an early reaction to the application in this post. Further evidence of blowback can be found in this link from Wired, in which a couple is suing Google for posting photos of their house. It is not entirely clear whether the company that obtained the photos actually took the pictures from a private road or from a public road.

I've been told by a representative from one of these companies that take these photos that they had run-ins with residents while out in the field. These run-ins have included being threatened with guns (this type of reaction is somewhat understandable since the vans and SUVs used to obtain the photos seem like a spy-vehicle).

This type of lawsuit could have wide-ranging implications for the GIS and imagery industries. Our County has a Web site with high resolution aerial photos and extensive parcel information and it receives brisk traffic. Thousands of counties have sites like ours. More of this type of information will be out there in the future. Much more.

As I've said before, I think this is a positive development overall. The government and corporations will gather this type of imagery whether or not they post it on the Web. Is your privacy protected if the government or corporations already have the information and keep it in-house? Or are we better off knowing the type of information and imagery that is available to the government and corporations? I think we are better off when we can watch the watchers watching us (convoluted I know, but you get the idea).

No comments: