18Nov2010

Street View in Germany: Time to Panic!

closeThis post was published 3 years 10 months 13 days ago, which probably makes it incredibly outdated. It may not represent my current opinion on the subject, it may be an incoherent mess or it may just be way below the standards of my more recent posts. Please keep this in mind when reading.

Google’s Street View service has finally hit Germany. Unfortunately the announcement of Street View coming to Germany two months ago has been met with a huge amount of sillyness by Germans. Afraid of their own shadow, they fought with Google until Google agreed to “blur out” houses if owners didn’t want it to appear on Street View.

In my opinion, that’s privacy gone ad absurdum. Google only takes pictures of objects that are clearly visible from public space, and our laws clearly state that anyone may photograph and publish anything located in a public space. Blurring a house does nothing whatsoever to protect someone’s privacy, because the house is still there and anyone can still go there and camp in front of it with binoculars if they really wanted to spy on someone. That actually makes much more sense than going to Google Street View, because Street View is merely a snapshot of the location which is in most cases ridiculously old.

Our newly published Street View in Germany features photos that are at least two years old, and since then A LOT has changed. Take a look at the house I live in now:

I have never even seen that “Schumd Pflegedienst” or whatever it is. The store on the right has been empty ever since I moved in and has only recently found a new tenant.

In that picture, you can also sadly also see that some of our neighbors got something to hide, because they had their house blurred by Google. It’s very awkward and rude that they blurred half of our house too.

Blurring is completely useless to protect anyone’s privacy. In Germany’s Street View, there are popping up more and more blurred houses with Panoramio Photo overlays, which in many cases show the house much clearer than usual Google Street View captures. Take a look at the house behind this link.

I simply cannot comprehend the German panic behind Street View. If anything, Street View useful for you. If you have invited guests over, you can now simply point them to Street View, where they can look at your house or street and make those much easier for them to recognize on arrival. I’ve used Street View a lot to get a sense of orientation outside of Germany, e.g. for my last small vacation in Ireland.

I wonder what these panic-y people who had their house blurred will do when they move somewhere else. They’ve put the burden of a blurry house on their next tenant, but now the new house they live in is not blurred. Blur the next one? And the one after that? And the one after that? Soon, all of Germany will drown in a big blur. I bet people who had their house blurred don’t encrypt their Wi-Fi, use the same easy password on every website and have never heard of Tor and the likes.

, , , , , 3 Comments

3 thoughts on “Street View in Germany: Time to Panic!

  1. I do know several people who’ve had their houses blurred. These are otherwise completely normal human beings with real jobs and families, people who smile and wave from their kitchen window when I pass in front of their blurs, people who I have taken pictures of in the past and who in fact have publicly visible picasa albums with pictures of themselves and their families and friends.

    These are also the very same people who voted our current government and did nothing when that government passed law after stupid law about surveillance and making mandatorily accessible the most intimate pieces of personal data imaginable.

    These are, in summary, people without any interest in any of these topics and little to no clue about the internet, but with a voice and the will to use it. Couple that with the media and the simple fact that we live in interesting times wrt the way we access and use information… and will somebody *please* think of the children?

    Now we all have to live with the consequences. They will have to, too, but even more so, because it is their houses that are hidden behind these embarassing walls of frosted glass. Serve ‘em right? Maybe, but only time will tell if it does serve them well.

  2. Basically I can understand people being worried (unfortunately my paranoid boyfriend is one those people -_-), but to be honest I don’t think street view is evil and they are not sharing your identity there. I like it. And like you said can be very useful if you are going to go to place where you haven’t been before.

  3. That is really weird. I never really thought about a lot of these things before but I guess I am just too trusting. I just feel like if people want to be evil enough they are going to find a way to do it anyway.

Leave a Reply