Walking to work this morning I spotted the Google Streetview car touring the streets of Westmount. I will have to wait until Montreal goes online to find out if it spotted me.
Google Streetview is a fantastic idea; I love being able to take a stroll along Hollywood Boulevard without leaving my office (I’m really hoping the implement a “walking between two points” feature to eliminate all the clicking) and I love the idea of being able to explore a new city before actually going there.
Of course, it does have its privacy concerns, but it doesn’t bother me as much as other intrusions; I’m not sure how doing something on a public street can be considered “private” anyway. Having said that, I’ve always had a problem with public security cameras and the whole Big Brother fear so I have to consider what the difference is.
Firstly, Google Streetview is just a still snapshot of any one location whereas security cameras tend to be recording in full motion twenty four hours a day. The amount of information that can be gathered by the Google car about any “private” event on the street is minimal compared to what a video camera can capture.
Secondly, Google are doing this as a service to their customers, not as a way to monitor the public. The company motto of “Do no evil” has so far not been breached. I have to admit to a certain discomfort about the sheer number of services Google provide and how much data they are collecting from those services but until they do something overtly bad I’ll give them the benefit of doubt.
Finally, Google Streetview is a valuable service to me. I get no benefit from security monitoring. Some might say I would get a benefit if a crime was committed against me, but I’m guessing even if my bike theft had been caught on camera I still wouldn’t get my bike back.