Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Google Earth Street View comes to Halifax

IT was mentioned on the local news about a week ago that the Google car would be driving around town soon collecting images of Halifax for the "street view" feature on Google Earth. If you don't know about street view yet, it's a feature on Google Earth, the popular virtual globe and mapping software, that lets users see 360 degree, street level views of cities.

I was just chatting with a friend on the telephone around 3:00pm this afternoon when I saw the Google car attempt to make a wrong turn onto our one way street. Fortunately the driver realized his mistake right away, and turned around. He parked out front for a few minutes before continuing on his way. My camera was near by so I grabbed a couple of photos of the car while it was parked and as it drove by. Perhaps I will be seen standing in the window when the images are added to Google Earth.

The street view feature has caused some controversy over privacy issues. Google has developed software that tries to recognize faces and license plates on cars and blur them out. But of course, context is everything; a person can be recognized by their clothing, location, and any number of other factors. The software is not perfect either, it's not as good at recognizing and blurring profiles of faces, while often it blurs faces on statues and billboards. Blurred or not, some people see Street View as an unwelcome invasion of their privacy. I can understand that if you are one of those few people caught getting a speeding ticket, taking out the trash in your bathrobe, or strolling around wearing Crocs or something, but mostly I'm all for it. I quite enjoy seeing the street view perspectives on Google Earth. I recently checked out my friend's home in South Lanarkshire in Scotland. I've never been there, but taking a virtual tour around the area was great fun. If people insist that recognizable images of themselves not be removed, then I suppose Google should remove them. As for houses and yards and other things that can be seen from public streets it seems to me that's fair game.

I heard someone say they wouldn't want people all over the world to see how easy it is to break into their garage. Come on, if you are worried about your garage get a better lock. I very much doubt thieves are planing their break-ins by scouting locations on Google Earth. No one is going to travel across the globe to steal your Sears circular saw.

So if you see the Google Earth street view car driving by, give 'em a wave, or a moon, whatever you are into.

"Coastweekly" posted this short video clip on YouTube of the same car (still in Halifax) a couple of days later. I like the sound of the child's squeal of delight at the beginning.

The street views of Halifax are now available in Google Earth. And there I am with my camera in the window. Too bad they did not take the photos in the summer with all the green leaves... and our freshly painted house!

View Larger Map

No comments: