Google Street View has launched in the UK today, which I'm sure has caused a surge of people (me included) in rushing to see if where they live is pictured on the site. So far, the photo mapping tool covers 25 UK cities, including London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Google also released some Street View Facts to support the UK launch. These included the biggest problem for drivers trying to put all the photographs together in the UK was - you guessed it - the weather, with all the dreary rain last summer. London was highlighted as the worst city to photograph, due to its one way streets, parking restrictions and high buildings.
Google also listed several ways that firms can use the technology, including making it easier for customers to locate restaurants or offices by embedding the relevant Street View image into web sites, and showing house hunters suitable properties.
There are certainly potential business uses, but one area that could trip Google up is privacy.
Google was at pains to point out that it has gone to great lengths to protect individual's privacy. "Street View only contains imagery that is already visible from public roads and features technology that blurs both faces and licence plates," the search giant said. Users will be able to flag any suspect image to Google, and the firm cited support from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) over its approach.
Google has previously come under pressure from the European Union and US government representatives over the technology, and Street View has already been tested in the US courts. Last year, a Pennsylvania couple sued Google for trespass and invasion of privacy, after the firm took pictures of their drive which was marked with 'Private Road' and 'No Trespassing' signs. The couple said that the pictures had caused their home to diminish in value by $25,000, but the US court ruled in Google's favour.
Although that case certainly sounded like people trying their luck, no doubt there will be similar cases here in the UK where photos include unauthorised or unexpected content. When I searched for my house on Street View, the first shot showed three women walking along with their children in pushchairs, and further up the road a man in shorts and sunglasses. Although their faces were slightly blurred, anyone who knew these people would have been able to tell who they were. This could lead to some tricky situations, especially if people are caught on camera in places where they shouldn't be. Cheating husbands and wives, I'd start checking out Street View now in case you've been pictured coming out of any houses you shouldn't have been in.
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