Will Google Maps Camera-Equipped Tricycles Take Pictures Of Our Kids Playground?

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Google's grand experiment in photographing the world's places for Google Maps has taken its "street view" cameras off-road with new hi-tech tricycles equipped with 360 degree view cameras to photograph the back roads, parks, college paths and inner sanctums of our world. The engineer's latest design raises the question: What will Google be capturing on its backroad tour that people don't want seen?

The images are up on Google Maps today and we'll no doubt soon see how the engineers at Google have opened people's private lives up to scrutiny they did not invite. All so Google can have better images to sell their advertisers' products around the world.

WIll Google be adequately blurring the faces of people out of their online photographs?  Go look at this tricycle shot of Legoland (choose "street view") and see what you think.  Bet those families that day didn't realize they were being photographed to boost Google's bottom line. Did these families have a reasonable expectation that their family photo wouldn't be open to millions of eyes, and used to sell Google advertising services? 

Will it be outing college students who don't want their parents to know what's in their dorm window, people who don't want their employers or clients to know what flags they fly or signs they hang on their rural roads, people who built extensions on their home, but didn't tell the city permitting office? There's no blurring the identity of people driving certain cars on certain roads near their homes.

I don't want my kids photographed in a playground, or on a class trip to a park or historical site as Google's tricycles are rolling through. Google claims it will blur faces, but we'll just have to see how much it values privacy over its desire to put images of everywhere and everything online for everyone to see, just so that advertisers will pay a bigger price to advertise on those pages. 

This is creepy stuff. Let's hope this is one time the privacy cops at Google were giving clear direction to the engineers. My bet is we'll be hearing the fallout soon.

More importantly, Google isn't publishing a newspaper, where photos of people in public places are allowed.  Google is taking pictures to make more money from it's contextual advertising. Google makes its money one way — advertising.  Our right to privacy shouldn't be sacrificed so Google can make billions of dollars off images of us and our things.

Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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