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google all seeing eye

Google’s All Seeing Eye

by The Drifter on May 17, 2009

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes


Google Maps is a tool with which most internet users are familiar and find very helpful and often entertaining because of the Google Maps feature which lets you view detailed satellite imagery of almost anywhere in the world. I have never been to the pyramids of Egypt or to Mt. St. Helens in real life but I feel as if I have had a private helicopter tour after seeing them on Google Maps.

The detailed satellite images also raise privacy issues. But the even more dangerous tool available from Google is the Street View Function. Greece has recently declined to allow the function to be available for their country and even Britain, famous for its Orwellian web of constant surveillance, has expressed serious concerns over the use of Street View in England.


What could be so bad about Street View? After all, the pictures are all taken from a public place where anyone who desires can walk up and legally stand. Google uses nifty cameras mounted on top of cars of all sorts and drives around taking pictures. These pictures are then stuck together so that any user can navigate as if they were in a 3-d world, getting close-ups of almost any feature of a neighborhood.  It makes vanishing in a digital world even more difficult.

The first major concern might be a bit exaggerated by some but it is worth mentioning. The concern is that the cost of acquiring sensitive surveillance information is much cheaper with Street View. Previously, a burglar/identity thief/private investigator/you name it, would have to take the time to go to a neighborhood and actually expose themselves to witnesses and to the target of their surveillance. Lingering for any amount of time would certainly be suspicious enough to draw attention.

This attention was the risk, or price, which was required for engaging in that kind of surveillance society. But now, there is a wealth of information available from the comfort of home, reducing greatly the risk of being seen by witnesses and reported for appearing suspicious. Essentially, the unlucky old woman caught outside of her house at the time the camera drove by is now advertised as a potential target at any time of day.  By using the similar tips to avoid a private investigator you can also avoid surveillance cameras.

The other concern is that this information gathered from using the street view function has been and will continue to be used to verify sensitive information by private investigators and others seeking verification of valuable information. A car can be verified to have been in the possession of a particular person if it is seen in the driveway of the owners house. Also, a person can be verified to have lived at a particular place if they are seen near their house. These are just two simple examples of what may be possible.

What can be done to protect privacy? Google is fairly responsible and is fairly responsive to requests from users to blur out their face and license plate number. If you find yourself exposed, in the Street View mode of Google maps there is a link on the bottom of the image labeled “Report a Problem.” From that point the prompts are straight forward and easy to navigate to report to Google the image you wish to have removed.


I recommend looking at your home, work and any other places you commonly visit that you would prefer to keep private and make sure there is no sensitive information displayed to the world. This is of course inadequate to truly protect your privacy because your face and license plate number are not the only things that identify you. Your height, hair color, dress, the make and model of your car, all are identifying features that could potentially expose more of you than you want. But it is a start.  You can learn more strategies for protecting your privacy by getting the book How To Vanish.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Drifter is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article of 131 by .
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