Saturday, June 02, 2007

New STREET VIEW feature on Google Maps! WALK IT!

>This is amazing. You can go to and the cities below have a new feature called STREET VIEW. You can click on that and a little PERSON icon will show up which you can place on any of the blue outlined streets.....even highways...and then manually move that person down the street and view it as you walk it! Just amazing. Noah loves this and so did I. It is like walking down a street in real time. The box opens and you will see a yellow line with white arrows in the STREET VIEW box. THAT is where you move forward or sideways or backwards with your arrow keys. NOT on the map itself. HAVE FUN!

Google said the Street View photos, found at, are currently available only for specific, blue-outlined streets in certain areas, although they plan to soon expand coverage to other areas, as well. Initially, Street View includes areas of the San Francisco Bay area, New York City, Las Vegas, Denver, and Miami, with other U.S. locales soon to come.

By navigating online through Google Street View, users can virtually walk the streets of a city, check out a restaurant before arriving, and even zoom in on bus stops and street signs to make travel plans.

While the photos are not real-time captures, they can include windows of apartment buildings, houses, or businesses, through which private details may be viewed. In an article in Friday's New York Times, for instance, one Oakland, California resident expressed her concern over being able to see her cat Monty in the living room window of her second-floor apartment, using the new Street View technology.

Within Street View Help, there is a link to "Report Inappropriate Image," with reporting options such as "this image infringes on my privacy" and "this image presents personal security Relevant Products/Services concerns." However, the navigation paths to this reporting are not immediately evident.

"Most companies," said Brad Shimmin, an analyst for industry research firm Current Analysis, "won't sell photos if you can identify people" in a given, private setting. He noted that people and objects seen in public spaces constitute news, and there is no apparent privacy right there -- especially because Google is not presently making money from the images.

The borderline, he suggested, is being able to see into people's windows and their private lives, whose visual accessibility from a public space might be legal but runs counter to U.S. notions of privacy.

But Wait, There's More

Google apparently has even more plans for photographic and data mapping. On Wednesday, Google announced it had purchased Panoramio, a company based in Spain that enables photographers to link their digital images to the exact location on the planet where they were taken, via Google Maps.

Concurrent with the Street View announcement at the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, the company also announced the launch of Mapplets. This new tool allows developers and consumers to create miniature Web pages inside Google Maps and then put anything there that could go on a normal Web page. This includes HTML, JavaScript, or Flash. The idea is to create miniature applications, such as real estate search, current weather conditions, or distance measurement.

The technology underlying Street View is amazing, with plenty of positive benefits. However, malicious use also seems more than likely and it will be interesting to see how Google responds to yet another round of criticism and concern from privacy advocates.

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