As Google gets closer, people begin to push back

 - 
06/02/2008
Look, I'm as big a fan of Google Maps as the next guy. I think they have the best site-to-site directions on the web, the satellite imagery provided is incredibly helpful, especially when home-shopping or checking out past residences, and I don't really buy national security arguments, as it's not like you're seeing live images, no matter how detailed they are. However, the new Street View feature, where you can virtually drive down the street in many towns (go here and then click Street View (I recommend choosing to look at Juneau, Alaska) - it's hard to link correctly to Google Maps) that have been already videoed from the top of a car, has given me some pause. In this case, the detail is pretty fine, and if you should happen to be out in your front yard - a place I don't consider to be a public place - you could easily find yourself perpetually online. And I'm not sure I'd like photos of myself mowing the lawn, all sweaty and high-socked (tick protection, dontcha know), online forever. Now, one town is telling Google to buzz off. North Oaks, a private community outside of St. Paul, Minn., sent a letter to Google last January, asking to be removed from any maps the company uses on its Web sits. The community's roads are privately owned and the city enforces a no-trespassing ordinance, according to reports. "It's not the hoity-toity folks trying to figure out how to keep the world away," North Oaks Mayor Thomas Watson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "They really didn't have any authorization to go on private property." I think it will be interesting to see where the courts start coming down on these video issues. Say you've got residential video on a private street - do you have authority to video the cars going by? Say you're a company using video for both operational and security purposes - is there a difference in how and by whom the video can be viewed dependent on how the video is being used? What video can be posted online and for how long? Maybe Google's pressing of the envelope will lead to some interesting case law.