I took a day off today so I happened to be driving through my own neighbourhood around 10:00am. As I turned the bend, I noticed a Chevy Cobalt with an odd derrick-like structure mounted on the roof:
Of course it was the Google Street View car!
The cameras on the car take pictures in all directions. Specialized software then ‘stitches’ the still images together to provide the Street View experience. Here is a picture of the camera cluster:
There has been lots of discussion across the country about Street View and its potential for privacy invasion. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada weighed in on this with their Fact Sheet titled Captured on Camera. The basic point is that we do have privacy rights:
In Canada, there is private-sector privacy legislation that applies to these street-level imaging applications if they are collecting images of identifiable people. And, while the Privacy Commissioners of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec recognize the popularity of these applications, they have also expressed reservations because the technology captures images not just of places, but of people as well.
I believe the federal commissioner lobbied Google and was able to extract two key concessions: Google would notify residents of the Street View car visit and the company would allow citizens to have images scrubbed if they were deemed privacy invasive.
I’ll dig up the facts related to this on a subsequent update to this post, but for now I have to go tidy up my front yard!
Update: Google has a video describing how to remove sensitive or inappropriate images from the service.