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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.

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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 129 by .
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leo T Ollenberger January 14, 2010 at 1:56 am

If these street images by google are updated on a regular basis this could be a real problem. If updates are not done and all faces etc. were blurred, the problem is quite diminished, never the less, it is only ok in your back yard.

2 ThatGuy May 13, 2010 at 10:17 pm

What is this, a site for criminals and spies? Who in the hell is this concerned about their privacy unless there’s something they’re trying hide.

3 topgearfan August 13, 2010 at 8:15 am

Look! Its The Stig! Hi Stiggy!
That is awesome.
Honestly I think its a bit strange for everyone to get uppety about this street view thing. It is the street after all, where anyone can walk down freely. I don’t think its any worse. Go ahead, leave your drapes facing the road open. plain jane can see what your doing when she walks by and so can street view.
Same thing with people on the street who get their picture taken. unless someone makes a video like this, and the person happens to be in it, or their on a busybusy street, only somewhat more than the amount of people who saw them on the street will see them on street view anyhow. Its not like you get on street view and your picture is sent to every person on the planet and it pops up the second they turn on their compy.
Get over your privacy. No matter how much you think you have walking down the street in your invisible manbubble. The only privacy you really have is in the shower. ..well.. maybe. guess you never know with that one.

4 Eka Orlov September 26, 2010 at 6:38 am

Obviously, some of you are here by accident. Identity theft is only one of many ways to have your identity threatened. If you had read his book you might understand. As a person who got out of domestic abuse I understand that my ex-, although not allowed near my home, can find it, find other spots to hide himself in the area, and come attack me. Now that’s 2 reasons to worry about Google. Believe me, there are plenty more!

5 von vankluse December 11, 2010 at 10:34 pm

The best thing to do is video/street view google data server farms, post them online and then enjoy. Same thing with these people with these cameras on their cars, find them and follow them all day and then post pictures of where their cars is at their house with the camera on top along with their entire yard view. Their server farms are supossed to be secret but the information is out there as to where they are at, video record where and post online. If you start putting their private information online they might just change their song.

6 David December 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

Oh, here we go again! The typical boot-licking, slavish, “If you have nothing to hide” commentators. Well, if YOU have nothing to hide why not drop your pants and let us see if you haven’t been molesting children, eh? You never did such a thing you say? Well if you haven’t anything to hide then you won’t mind us examining your johnson for fecal matter or blood. Right? I mean… it’s the seriousness of the charge and not the facts that matter. But you have nothing to “hide”. Right? I so tire of this mentality that embraces its velvet covered chains.

7 Jonathan Ashley May 9, 2011 at 10:05 am

I noticed that the individual who stated, “Who in the hell is this concerned about their privacy unless there’s something they’re trying hide” used a screen name/alias/moniker “ThatGuy.” What does he/she have to hide?

8 ron May 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

to that guy

You have to be completely out of the loop. What planet have you been living on.

9 Silverliberty May 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm

An answer to everyone who uses the line, “if you have nothing to hide.” My answer is “why do you want to know?” When a stranger(especially government employees) ask me for information, I should be concerned. I must assume they want to take something from me or use the information against me somehow. We don’t give our neighbors such personal info. If a neighbor or friend asked such questions about our private life, then it would raise serious doubts about the intentions of those people. Yet a government thinks it has the RIGHT to get or take our personal information. LOL, as we know, government neveeeeerrrr does anything nefarious or abuses and violates anything it has been given the privilege to do.

10 Resie September 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm

“nothing to hide”…I don’t have anything I MUST hide, but sometimes if I’m sweaty and working in my yard, I sure as shootin’ don’t want my pic splashed on Google maps for the entire world to see if they stumble onto it! What’s wrong with some of you people?

Neighbors you see every day are a far cry different from being splashed in the Internet when you DID NOT GIVE PERMISSION NOR WISH TO BE. That goes for my home, my car, etc. I pay to live in peace and privacy on my property and both are being stolen from me by invasive cameras that have no business tooling around and snapping photos.

If I go and take a strangers picture and splash it on the Internet w/o their permission, I’m guilty of a crime. But the Big G can do it and it’s okay? Please. Homes and yards ARE NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN. Duh.

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