Google Gives New Meaning to "Neighbourhood Watch"

Big Brother (aka Google) may have physically been in your town recently. The (in)famous Google car with the roof-mounted camera has cruised Canadian streets to capture pictures of neighbourhoods to put up on the maple-leaf version of Street View in the near future. Google-cams have been spotted in:

  • Abbotsford, Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria, BC
  • Calgary, Lethbridge and Edmonton, AB
  • Regina, SK
  • Winnipeg, MN
  • Barrie, Brantford, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Oshawa, Ottawa, St. Catharines-Niagara, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Windsor, ON
  • Montreal, Quebec City, Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, QC
  • Moncton and St. John, NB
  • Halifax, NS
  • Charlottetown, PEI

Take a Virtual Walk-Through of Where You Want to Live

If you're looking to buy a home - especially if you are from out of town and unable to jump in your car and head over to the neighbourhood -  Google Street View could be a great tool. To quote Google in its advice, 10 Tips for Everyday Use of Street View: "Looking to buy or rent a property? Take a virtual walk-through of the area to check nearby amenities such as parks, roads, bus stops, shopping areas and parking. Save time by not going to open houses that don't meet your criteria."

And as a home seller, the link to the Street View of your neighbourhood could be added to the online listing of your home -  putting you one step ahead of other residences on the market.

However, like most things in life, there is a darker side to this handy online tool and, in this case, it's privacy (or lack thereof).

"Street View, Privacy & You
"

That's the name of a video Google Canada has on YouTube to address the contentious subject of unwanted images captured by the search engine giant.


Would it bother you to have footage taken of your home without your consent? It certainly bothered one UK resident who chased a Google Street View car out of his neighbourhood. “My immediate reaction was anger," said Buckinghamshire resident Paul Jacobs.

"This is an affluent area. We’ve already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks. If our houses are plastered all over Google, it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike. I was determined to make a stand, so I called the police.”

Google has received many complaints and experienced considerable “civilian resistance" from residents in the 10 countries where they've filmed to date. Some places, like Germany, are putting time limits on how long the image can stay up, even when Google is blurring images of faces.

You can either love this web technology for creating a window into Canadian neighbourhoods... or lament the loss of privacy...

What do you think?

2 Comments

  1. Kevin 07/23/2009 at 7:41 AM

    Google is taking the proper actions to help keep privacy ensured. How low can society really get if you think posting a few images on the internet are going to be a threat to your property? In all honesty if you are really concerned about your property being 'stolen', consider putting a fence up or moving expensive or important property to the back yard. If someone really wanted your valuable possesions I am pretty sure they would have better places to look other than online images.
    For those that would still be concerned about their property you are spoiled!
    As for Google, keep up the good work.

  2. Keely Thomas-Moore 03/13/2012 at 10:59 AM

    I remember the neighborhood watch signs from growing up! Do places still have those? Also, in regards to Google, I personally don't think have an image of your home online will really increase the likelihood of crimes in your area. I think people usually already know where the wealthy areas are, and Google isn't going to suddenly make that more clear. Besides, I always thought it would be funny to see someone get captured on the Google cam picking their nose or something.

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