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Google Street View And Privacy Essay

1247 words - 5 pages

In May 2007, Google added an innovative feature to Google Maps, called Google Street View. Street View provides 360 degree views of addresses from street level. Google cites many possible uses for the technology, such as showing long-distance friends and family your house, checking out the handicapped accommodations at establishments in advance, or previewing potential vacation rentals. Street View is available for most major metropolitan areas in the United States as well as selected countries abroad. As with any project that has a scope as grand as Street View’s. Google’s new technology has some drawbacks. Google’s methodology to collect all of these images was to pay people to drive around in cars that had cameras mounted on their roofs. As a result, many of the images contain people going about their daily lives, unaware that they are being photographed. This causes some people concern over their privacy. These fears are unfounded, however, as Google has worked very hard to ease people’s concerns. Ultimately, the utility of the service outweighs the privacy concerns of a small group of people. This paper outlines the privacy rights of United States citizens regarding Street View, what Google has done to address privacy concerns, and then offers a recommendation on whether Google has done enough to address these privacy concerns.
Google has implemented a number of features to address the privacy concerns of the public. The company has worked very hard to ‘anonymize’ the available data using their face and license plate blurring technologies. These make it difficult to recognize people or their cars from photos in Street View. To check that this blurring technology is doing its job correctly, however, Google must keep the original ‘unblurred’ copies, a prospect that makes some people uncomfortable. Europeans have asked Google to do away with the original photos after a certain amount of time as a result. Google has also made the process to remove images of a person very easy. There is a ‘report a problem’ button that just requires a short form to have Google review the image in question. Google has also proven very accommodating in working with governments. In the United States they have removed all images of sensitive military bases, and in other countries they have provided notice before starting work, providing their planned routes as well. Google has generally responded to the criticism of their service by attempting to change their product to alleviate the issues.
Google Street View does not violate individual privacy rights in the United States. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution offers the protection against unlawful search and seizure, provided there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. A person has a reasonable expectation of privacy if the person both actually expects privacy and if that expectation is one which society as a whole would think is legitimate. The prevailing view is that people do not have a...

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