I realize that this is extremely delayed due to my recent lapse in posts and the fleeting state of news in the blogosphere, but I feel that it is worth posting nonetheless. Google has launched its Street View option on Google Maps (US). I spent some time browsing the few available streets in my hometown and concluded that if I am ever in need of a street-level view of a particular building or square foot of pavement, it might come in useful. Over all, however, the novelty seemed to wear off quickly as I found the display increasingly choppy and I struggled to find something worth looking at. As a service, it would probably be better if it were integrated into Google Earth as a desktop application, rather than Google Maps as an online tool.
Of course, there are more critics of this new service than there were of governmental wire-tapping. A host of unethical and dangerous activities are quoted as possible threats to personal privacy and safety. I am undecided as to whether or not this is a good idea, because all good ideas can often be perverted into bad ideas. However, what does interest me is how this relates to the ever-increasing confusion over what constitutes "public" and "private" space. In many (if not all) countries around the world, new technologies - from mobile phones to satellite imagery - are changing the ways in which people interact with, and understand, spatial demarcations in everyday life.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
"There's a distinction between what Google has a legal right to do and what is the responsible thing to do," said Bankston, who believes the company should have blurred the images of unwitting pedestrians before it posted the street-level pictures. "It's a problem we as a society have to grapple with, and I think we are just now seeing the fault lines emerge." While he thinks some of the issues raised by Google's new service are prime fodder for a healthy debate, Weinstein worries that it might inspire overly repressive laws.
"It's a tough area, but it just seems there is no way around the fact that public spaces are public spaces," Weinstein said. "You don't want to create an environment where it becomes illegal to take photos in public. It can be riskier not to be able to see something than it is to be able to see something."
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