APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

Google Earth Street View

© June 2007 Anthony Lawrence

Google is now offering a much closer look at our world. Some folks are raising privacy concerns. As a card-carrying ACLU liberal, I'm supposed to be standing shoulder to shoulder with all my brethren in opposition to video surveillance, but I'm not.

I'm sorry. The ACLU will probably want their card back, but I just don't see this as a problem. My feeling is that if I am visible to random strangers, there's no additional loss of privacy because of cameras. If anything, I'm strongly in favor of cameras everywhere: it would help with crime.

At Is the solution for privacy openness? I said:

Sometimes I think that openness is the only final answer. If you don't have privacy anywhere, your privacy can't be abused. Your behavior might change: if you know that video cameras are watching you wherever you are, you won't be breaking littering laws. If every keystroke you type at your computer is available to the world, you aren't likely to be soliciting sex from minors.

If you are walking down a public street, I think it's reasonable to assume that you might be "on camera". I almost hate to say this, because I know it will incense my liberal peers, but if you aren't doing anything wrong, what's your problem with the surveillance camera? Other people already see you, and that might include people who know and recognize you. The camera just increases the potential.

There are parallels with Open Source here. Openness in code has obvious benefits; so does openness in the real world. Yet my bet is that the immediate reaction of most reading this will be to disagree. Right?

See also The future of biometrics in business.

Got something to add? Send me email.

(OLDER)    <- More Stuff -> (NEWER)    (NEWEST)   

Printer Friendly Version

-> Google Earth Street View


Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of Preview

Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition

Take Control of Apple Mail, Third Edition

Take control of Apple TV, Second Edition

Take Control of IOS 11

More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Fri Jun 1 13:18:22 2007: 3013   Niall

London is pretty saturated with state-controlled security cameras. Studies have shown that the only application that results in a drop in crime is when they're used in parking lots (vehicle theft), though most of the studies note that poor implementation might be to blame (eg. poor staffing of the monitors) for the poor impact.

I've seen documentaries with Bobbies frantically following people from camera to camera just because they're running for a bus. Hardly suspicious behavior.

As much as I personally don't like the idea, and don't believe they will do much to prevent crime, they are certainly helpful after the fact. Authorities in London used CCTV footage to help them find the perps involved in the botched 2005 attacks, as well as identify the suicide bombers for the earlier ones which sadly were not prevented.

Too much room for abuse, I say. In an ideal world where the watchers could be trusted to do the right thing and respect people I'm sure everything would be hunky-dory. I'm too much of a pessimist to believe we live in that world.

Fri Jun 1 14:13:57 2007: 3014   anonymous

Yes, when I went to London a few years back, there were cameras everywhere, and did not seem to bother me. In fact, I wish I could get some footage of my wife and I, closing down one of the pubs we visited the first night we were there. Watching us stumble home, laughing and having a great time would make for nice home video! At least, I think so.

As long as nobody is watching me in my home, I am pretty open to this idea. We should take what Londoners have learned from this experience, and see if it is worth it. For crime, it is a fantastic idea. I think the thing that scares people the most, is how "big brother" is watching you, and what other liberties are we willing to give up, in the name of security.

The parallel to open source is a good one. Especially when you apply the security principle to it. But would we be more secure? Are there ways to "crack" this behavior? i.e. some kind of cloaking device that would render the camera useless? Electromagnetic Pulses? Will this lead to another cat and mouse chase, like the radar detectors, versus the radar?

I still need more information, before I can say if this is going to be worth it or not, but being able to track down people who kidnap kids, or perform other crimes, certainly sounds like a great idea.

- Bruce

Fri Jun 1 14:26:40 2007: 3015   Niall

Funny you should mention "cracks":


Tue Jul 10 00:21:43 2007: 3055   anonymous

You should read The Light of Other Days

Sat Nov 10 23:29:32 2007: 3246   TonyLawrence

Spanish translation added today at
(link) - thanks to Daniel Toker

Wed Feb 18 01:34:49 2009: 5461   anonymous

hwo do you check out google earth withOUT downloading it? THXTHXTHX<<<<

Wed Feb 18 01:36:23 2009: 5462   anonymous

oh please "Niall'. If youre talking about what i THINK your talking about, you are an idiot/pervert. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< love, me

Wed Mar 4 22:28:27 2009: 5603   anonymous

whats most amazing about street view is to think that if we have access to this kind of technology, just imagine what the government´s got.
privacy? you´re right, that doesnt exist anymore, and the worst is that it is violated mostly behind our backs

Wed Apr 8 17:54:50 2009: 6063   malcolm

What kind of idiot would want the world as well as any government to have access to all of your movements. Throughout history, we have seen situations where this kind of government spying can cause a problem. In response to the idiot who asked the question, "if your not doing anything wrong, what are you worried about?", Maybe he should read about people like Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., etc... These people weren't doing anything wrong, but they lost their lives because they were viewed as a threat to the power structure as well as the status quo. What happens when the United States Government decides we are a threat to the internal security of the country? What happens when any government sees us as a threat. What about people lobbying for the elimination of powerful drug cartels, or arms dealers, who happen to be flush with cash. I dont think i want these people to have all of my personal information, as well as my travel habits/daily routines at their finger tips. If anything, this makes us less secure. Since the original ratification of the United States Constitution, a**h**es have been trying to find ways to get around it, nullify it, and/or destroy it. Idiots like that guy who claims to be a card carrying member of the ACLU have assisted these a**h**es over the generations. Law enforcement is the other culprit. How far are we willing to let this go? The people who run and own google can afford the type of protections that the average guy cannot. This is not just a democracy, it is a democracy who's foundations are made up of freedoms and rights, period. maybe we should start a website that lists the personal addresses and phone numbers of police, judges, politicians, and the likes. After all, we deserve equal protection under the law. If our rights to privacy are going to be *****d, it should be open season on everybody. Why should someone elses rights be protected to a higher degree because they have a high profile job. Lets see how google feels when their children are abducted because some dick head wants to extort money from some wealthy a**h**es. This New World Order s**t is way out of control!!!

Wed Apr 8 18:18:42 2009: 6064   TonyLawrence

Obviously you didn't read what I said or just didn't understand it.

Total openness actually is a solution. Not just where the Government can spy on you, but where you can "spy" right back. Google Street View is actually an encouraging move in that direction.

Wed Apr 8 18:40:22 2009: 6065   TonyLawrence

Amusingly enough, you actually said If our rights to privacy are going to be ******, it should be open season on everybody.

Yes, that's exactly my point. It should be "open season". Police cameras scanning streets should be accessible to everyone and you should be able to see the people doing the scanning just as easily as they can see you.

The rest of your paranoia is just silly. What's visible in public is visible to anyone - cameras don't change that, they only extend the capability. If you don't want to extend the abilities of police, then we should take away their cars, their telephones, their computers.. those things give them more ability to observe society.

But - I knew when I wrote this that I'd get extreme reactions like that. I'm just surprised it took so long for someone to get so incensed.

Sun Apr 12 23:34:11 2009: 6146   anonymous

I believe this has it's up's and downs though good for crime I would have to agree with tom, what if our country one day starts going communist these cameras would hunt innocent people example like if there was a hater in power against jew's this would allow them to hunt them down and possibly hurt them this is why i dont agree with the invading others rights it could be used to hurt people and if someone wanted to bad enough policies and paper will not stop them just like tom suggests it could be used against the innocent. remember though there are good people in power there's also evil a majority of these people could get away with it .it's not just being paranoid now day's being paranoid could save a life. and know alot of people disagree with it because it's not morally right and disregards our privacy right's which in return could lead to communism so no it's not that all people have any thing to hide thats just an excuse to be possibly nosy or communist. like tom said just leave it out of people's homes. thank's.

Mon Apr 13 10:36:21 2009: 6149   TonyLawrence

You have no privacy when you are on a public street. People can already see you, can already track you if they want. A camera doesn't change that.

And again, my feeling is that if someone can see you, you should be able to see what they are seeing and see them also. That evens it all up.

Tue Apr 28 03:27:47 2009: 6271   ismail

'My life is a open book' , the remark of great leaders has now become an inescapable requirement of every one of us in present system of life. we are accountable to our ideas, desires,conducts and activities to every one around us all the time.
A welcome trend, google earth has made it possible.
Hats off to google, to present technological advance.

Thu Apr 30 17:51:02 2009: 6294   TonyLawrence

Here in MA some people are getting upset because police have sometimes used GPS devices without a warrant. My feeling is that if the police can follow you without a warrant, all the GPS does is make it cheaper for the taxpayers.

The police note that they usually DO get a warrant because without that any evidence they gain isn't useful for court. However, in an emergency, knowing where someone has gone or is now can absolutely be useful.

Thu Oct 8 04:00:31 2009: 7126   Betty

I like Google earth/street, but what worries me is if anyone has read the book "1984" (if your as old as me you probably have) everything in this book is coming true. Those of you who haven't read it, should read it. You will be amazed at all the things that have come true and, this was written way before 1984. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING!

Thu Oct 8 10:52:04 2009: 7131   TonyLawrence

But also, we are all watching. The little corner store has video cameras. It's still a little unusual now for ordinary homeowners to have cameras outside, but it is starting to filter down.

Mon Oct 12 01:30:55 2009: 7193   artistonhpvs

I like this street view in a big way but I hear those in why they object their privacy but the good side is far from enough. I want much higher definition and go in more places even in alley ways and rail trails and even circle any building or store. Even view inside...well inside dept stores etc.
the other side is privacy but I bet it'll happen where we have to fill info online and/or get permission to be invited very similar to wifi enabled/secured.
I would suggest all is blocked/blurred until we are permitted to get in.
I also want the impossible (unless there already) to do a search eg...bike stolen, break enter, lost wallet etc, follow your trail and go back to a date.
I want high speed street view as I learned it's pretty slow unless some1 can correct on this.
Also I like to know if this takes in lots of MB or GIGS?

I love it in a huge way & admire the genius except I understand to an extent how this is pulled off. It's too new and obvious the clear view and blurs are in square sectionals.

I cycle everywhere and love to be employed with this camera rotational digital photography and I generally use a trike style recumbent. I noticed that triker with camera in rear. I could and would ride through ally ways and odd places at a great pace.

Oh, too bad too much traffic in the way to capture some details an obstacle. I'd fix those spots perhaps an icon to click to view behind.

Never do streets that are being re paved unless it can be photoed again after completion(before/after)



Mon Oct 12 01:36:13 2009: 7195   TonyLawrence

Good ideas.

I'm sure Google will get into more detail over time.

Fri Oct 16 14:10:11 2009: 7269   DenoonSieg

How does one remove the "navigation panel" in the top right corner of the Street View image?

Fri Oct 16 14:23:56 2009: 7270   TonyLawrence

Do you mean the "look left", "look right" thing?

I don't think you can remove that.

Thu Feb 11 00:57:13 2010: 8060   anonymous


Sometimes I think that openness is the only final answer. If you don't have privacy anywhere, your privacy can't be abused. Your behavior might change: if you know that video cameras are watching you wherever you are, you won't be breaking littering laws. If every keystroke you type at your computer is available to the world, you aren't likely to be soliciting sex from minors.

Oh, come on! What about personal ac countability! I don't need or want people looking over my shoulder - especially the arrogant jack asses who think they know what is best for everyone else. I really don't need the help of control freaks telling me how to live!

Thu Feb 11 01:00:44 2010: 8061   TonyLawrence


I can only suggest you go back and read more carefully.

Thu Feb 11 01:21:17 2010: 8062   artistonhpvs


artistonhpvs is actually >>. artist on human powered vehicles...there is another meaning for hpvs...it's a disease...I could've used .>artistonbents (recumbents)....

anyway, I have absolutely no problem with google street view. I neither have problem with 24/7 cameras.

I want google street view to go a lot further including alley ways and inside places with owners permission (of course)...

I wish I could have employment to aid in this. I also like to view every city and town presently NOT listed. I am a cyclist and would very much enjoy the privilege having one of those high tech cameras as i cycle...


Sat Feb 13 15:02:02 2010: 8082   ismail


Conscience is the feeling of being constantly watched by others. This is a feeling that has become a fact through the technology of goggles street view.

Sat Feb 13 22:08:47 2010: 8083   artistonhpvs


I find google street far more a search tool and see things as they were then. Remember, what U see isn't real time. So how can any1 justify we are constantly being watched?...
here's something I find frustrating for my own good....landmarks destroyed but even though I did capture my own pics of just few of them, to view back in time many are still there on google unfortunately blocked by traffic & some streets aren't even shown(including some cities)....
I used street view to seek a job location or to prove a place I have been....

Wed Apr 14 04:40:00 2010: 8417   anonymous


i don't like authority or control. but i do think people should be in control of themselves. Folks should be able to do as they please, as long as it doesn't adversly effect others/community. People should be mindful enough to do what they want and not put negativity into what they do. There will always be a need for "outside" control, but as people we should be able to keep that to a minimum. Police yourself and not others

Wed Apr 14 11:07:08 2010: 8418   TonyLawrence


Police yourself and not others

has nothing to do with privacy per se and definitely has no relevance to Google Street View.

Fri Apr 23 17:26:27 2010: 8467   anonymous


Cameras everywhere may be fine for those fog breathers on the other side of the Atlantic, but we don't take kindly to surveillance here. There need to be privacy laws enacted that these devices cannot be within zoom lens of a residential structure. And google is going to suffer the wrath of an angry internet if they invade our privacy. Ever piss off 4chan? Collecting mac addresses will do it. I do not justify -their- behaviors (4chan's), either, but when you mess with the hive, you're bound to get the bees.

Fri Apr 23 17:31:24 2010: 8468   TonyLawrence


Exactly what "privacy" do you have on a public street?

Mon Jun 7 15:04:26 2010: 8670   Al


In the past I have used Google Earth to look at an area where I am going to get a birds eye view.

Stuff like alternate routes, bodies of water, just how far those wood extend etc.
Google earth has made some additions. Something called street view, whereby you can actually go to street level.
Pretty cool, I got a view of my house as it stand on the street. I was able to pan up,down and a full 360 degrees around.
I remember seeing a story about it and how they have this vehicle that has cameras all around cruising our city streets.
They went on to say their goal was complete coverage, yeah well right.

This wonderful new addition comes with a heavy price.
Before this was added I could zoom in and recognize my car sitting in the lot.
Recently I tried to look at the same area, it was difficult to tell the difference between a trailer and an empty pad. Let alone what type of vehicle you were looking at.

I wasn't surprised, as often when you appear to get more of something
it costs somewhere else.

The surprise came when I chose other satellite image sites and the resolution was just as bad. So its not just limited to Google but access to all satellite images.

Hey it's real cool, to be able to go to street level and look around but how often are those updates going to come if ever?
And you are limited to the street and of course only certain streets.

So now we get to seem more of something that will very quickly become out dated and a whole less less resolution in general.

So why does somebody want to limit the average Jone's view from above?

Sun Jun 20 15:01:28 2010: 8729   eunice


i would welcome cameras in our aera as it would catch the people who are letting their dogs poo on foot paths where i have to walk with my grandchildren especialy on amonday morning and young mothers with prams shouting at children watch your feet

Mon Jun 21 13:07:02 2010: 8731   BigDumbDInosaur


I doubt that Google is interested in catching dogs and their owners with bad manners.

Fri Oct 14 16:42:07 2011: 10033   bchopper


i strongly agree with you with what your saying even though many would hate that fact, i still stand to it .. although imagine... in 20 years all the best photos will be random lucky snaps taken from Google earth .. it seems being in the photography profession just got sucky


Printer Friendly Version

Have you tried Searching this site?

This is a Unix/Linux resource website. It contains technical articles about Unix, Linux and general computing related subjects, opinion, news, help files, how-to's, tutorials and more.

Contact us

Printer Friendly Version

Computers have been taught to distrust each other and will reject attempted connections most of the time. Nowadays, most computers and firewalls are utterly rude about it: it would be like asking someone to dance and having them ignore you as though you were invisible and inaudible. (Tony Lawrence)

Linux posts

Troubleshooting posts

This post tagged:





Unix/Linux Consultants

Skills Tests

Unix/Linux Book Reviews

My Unix/Linux Troubleshooting Book

This site runs on Linode