Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Here's a rationale for reining in Google Street View

No doubt, everyone loves to scope around on Google Street View. Every now and then you can escape to Mexico City or Miami Beach and walk up any street you want. It is cool. But a lot of people wonder whether Street View provides more information than is supposed to be at one's fingertips.

So why not control Google more carefully? Either regulate it so that certain rules would apply, or, at least, charge Google for the right to use the streets for making its photos.

Right or wrong? Most municipalities control every conceivable type of commerce or other activity that occurs on their streets.

The only activity that is not normally controlled is deliveries. And, even then, you need to be sure to follow all the many, many rules. If you want to be a street busker, you often have to follow rules and/or get a permit. If you want to operate a taxi cab or sell hot dogs on the streets or sidewalks, you will have another set of regulations and permits to contend with. If you want to put up scaffolding on a sidewalk or have a parade down main street, again, you have to follow the rules.

So tell me, please: how is it that the google-mobiles ply the streets with impunity, operating their business to their heart's content, while anyone else who wants to do anything at all on a street needs to jump through hoops?

Municipalities could make themselves a lot of extra money by implementing a fee to use streets for any mass photography project. Instead, most places that don't like Street View seem to go to some variation of the "invasion of privacy" approach.

One that doesn't, Windsor, is among the latest places to raise objections - in this case the complaint is that the photos were taken during a public works strike and the city comes out looking bad, with piles of garbage and whatnot all over the place. Meanwhile, Germany has threatened to sue Google over violation of privacy concerns. Apparently there is an offer in the works that would allow people in Germany to remove their residence from the site. Time will tell...

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