Google Street View car 311.
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
The seal of approval that Google received last week to introduce its
controversial street-mapping application, Street View, into Israel raised many
questions. Perhaps like in some countries that have already been burned by the
application, this is a legitimate discussion about where privacy ends and
Google’s application does allow us to receive a 360-degree visual image of streets in large cities worldwide, which assists us in
finding the street where we reserved a hotel in Barcelona or a popular cafe on
Bogroshov Street. On the other hand, there is the question of
Should Google, which has been coping continuously since its
establishment a decade ago with complaints of invasion of privacy, be allowed to
photograph a man picking his nose in the middle of the street or a woman
strolling on Fifth Avenue in New York with her lover?
The streets belong to all
of us and are not owned by Google. On the other hand, we are still talking about
public space, and it is therefore difficult to argue that Google is invading the
depths of pedestrians’ privacy. For example, if a man enters a sex shop in broad
daylight, anyone can see him doing so. Now he needs to take the chance that the
Google application might document his actions and preserve them for all
posterity. Google did announce that it would blur people’s faces, as well as
cars’ license plate numbers, but is this enough from a privacy point of view?
This discussion would have looked different a decade ago, but over the last few
years privacy boundaries have been stretched farther and farther and have become
extremely elastic. If beforehand people would keep their pictures from their
honeymoon in Thailand private, today we can see them in full view on Facebook.