The news this week that Google has removed images from Street View that allowed virtual hikes to the summit of Uluru, a sacred location in Australia’s Northern Territory, raises a serious question. Where does this mapping-meets-real-world service shift from being a genuinely useful guide to an invasion of personal privacy or, worse, an insensitive and inappropriate compromise of the rights and freedoms of others?
What started more than a decade ago as a demonstration of Google’s prowess has gotten out of hand. Yes, Street View can be useful, but if today you touted the idea of sending surveillance cars past our houses to take photos to share with the world, if you allowed users to upload their own photos “where Street View cars have never driven before,” you’d prompt a backlash. And rightly so.
Right now, you can ask Google to blur out your house—if you have a reason they deem acceptable, of course….