03 June 2007

Google Street View

I love maps. It might had started when I took English class in Viet Nam, in preparation for our eventual departure from Viet Nam as boat people. The English class was actually just the living room of a neighbor. There was a big table in the center but perhaps because there were too many students I found myself most of the time seated at a desk in the same room. Under a clear sheet of glass on the desk was a world map. When I was bored or didn't feel like following the class, I would read the map. The one year of English class we had really helped us later on as we settled in the U.S., but for me I also learned a lot about world geography.

I've used Google Maps from time to time, either online in a web browser or from the Mac app (Google Earth). Google Maps was recently improved with the introduction of Street View. Let's say you plan to travel to some city and want to have a view of the place at street level. With Street View, you can pick the location and have a 360-degree view of the location, as if you are standing there. Not 100% like being there, as the views are usually from the middle of the block and at the intersections, but it's still good. Right now, Street View doesn't cover every street there are, but I suppose that will change. In my neighborhood, so many family houses have been razed to make room for condos. It would be nice to have the old views saved via Street Views for posterity.

Street View is an issue for privacy advocates. In the news, it was mentioned that some pictures in Street View showed a man picking his nose, protests at abortion clinic, homeless people, etc. For me, as a dweller of a big city, that's just the typical street scene, but I can imagine it can be a big deal for people from smaller towns. Google does offer an easy way to report any offending pictures. I wonder if Google already has an army of Photoshop experts to doctor the images to remove the offending elements. Or would they just have the photographers re-visit the locations?

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