Google, you did it again.
Just this weekend, I had posted that Google Maps suddenly added live traffic information to Metro Vancouver.
Just today, 1 hour ago @ 1:18 ET, Google has now officially added street view to Vancouver (as well as Toronto, Calgary, and a bunch of other cities shown on a map in their main page, or via CBC news here).
Once again, no official announcement, no publicity – it’s almost as if it was an afterthought for Google. Well, when searching for “Google Street View” I did see this one ad:
Google Street View Explained
For those less technologically inclined, Google Street View is a free service started by Google in 2005 that enables users to actually see the streets of their city in near 3d quality. Of course, the images, like satellite images, or not live but snapshots from a certain time. Have you ever been preparing for an interview, and wish you knew what the building looked like? Google Street View can now help you
Google Street View Took a Picture of My Car!!!
Back to my experience.
What does any self-respecting, internet-savvy man do the second that Google Street View is available in their city? Find their own homes of course!!!
And what do I find when I look up my address but my car parked right in front of my house!!
Now I know the first reaction for people is to rant about privacy laws and such. But honestly, for me, I was so excited I couldn’t help but tell Vicki that our car was on Google Maps!!! For me, it boils down to a benefit/cost analysis:
- I can explore any area of my city AS IF I WAS THERE from the comfort of a computer (or my iPhone for that matter) – this is probably the most obviously HUGE, previously unheard of benefit.
- I can find places better and be more prepared
- I can tell others to use it to find my house, or other places better
- Possible robbers, shooters, and criminals can be caught on camera (like this incident)
- Moneywise, nothing. It’s free. (wow, what a great cost)
- Privacywise: I’m not so much worried about Google misusing the data (there model of “do no evil” has largely stayed true, and I’m amazed how they have affirmed that the users own their own data, not Google).
- The real con, is that OTHERS may use that data (ie. thieves to see which houses are less secured, etc)
- Politicians who may be doing shady things may get caught on camera (which, honestly, shouldn’t be a con)
So to me, the benefits outweigh the costs. We’re living in a day of age where because of technology’s wide availability, “transparency”is slowly becoming the name of the game. Stock traders like Timothy Sykes or leading the way in a service that has largely never released their portfolios or strategy. Google has taken it to a next level. But I strongly believe companies who resist this change to transparency will slowly lose respect and become irrelevant to the majority of the population.
Google’s Solutions to Privacy Issues: My car’s license plate is blurred!
Of course, Google has already anticipated such problems with Canadian privacy laws, and gone the extra mile to use image processing to blur license plates and faces (an algorithm that would be quite challenging and difficult!). However, it has definitely worked for me as my car’s license plate is completely blurred.
Good job Google. Just keep to your motto of “do no evil”