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Are Google’s Images a Security Threat, Invasion of Privacy or Useful Tool?

Written by Heidi Schwartz. Posted in FM Alert, Security

Tagged: , , , ,

Published on August 13, 2009 with 2 Comments

Google, the world’s most popular search engine, is often revered (and reviled) for its Street View images, which offer anyone with an Internet connection direct access to detailed photos of homes and buildings around the world.

But do these images pose a security threat?

A recent FM World poll found that the vast majority of facility professionals think they do not. The poll asked 100 facility practitioners if they “see Google Street View as a potential security threat in any way” to their organization.

Their answer was largely no. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they did not see the search engine’s images as threatening, with the remaining 29 percent saying they did.

One respondent said, “There’s nothing to stop a thief driving past with their phone video on to get the same, even more up-to-date, footage.” While another asked, “Who is really interested in this footage except for burglars? Isn’t our privacy invaded enough already?”

The second respondent has a point. While Google Street View might not pose any more of a security threat than other, more accessible forms of technology can produce, what real purpose does it serve? What is to be gained from looking at the front of the neighbor’s house, or the hospital or school up the road, beyond a voyeuristic thrill, or possibly, something worse? Nothing.

Even more of an invasion of privacy is Google’s Satellite View, which offers viewers plenty of top-down satellite imagery of homes and buildings everywhere, extending into their private property. Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney famously had his own vice presidential home pixelated and obscured in these Google images, a move U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has since reversed.

But perhaps Cheney had a point. Views such as those offered by Google can, when used improperly, result in not only an invasion of privacy, but also a security threat. As both private citizens and people with an interest in facilities, we have a duty to fight things that encroach on our freedoms and jeopardize our safety. And maybe Google crosses the line.

What do you think?

About Heidi Schwartz

Heidi Schwartz

Schwartz joined Group C Media in April 1989 as managing editor of Today's Facility Manager (TFM) magazine (formerly Business Interiors) where she was subsequently promoted to editor/co-publisher of the monthly trade magazine for facility management professionals. In September 2012, she took over the newly created position of internet director for TFM's parent company, Group C Media, where she is charged with developing content and creating online strategies for TFM and its sister publication, Business Facilities. Schwartz can be reached at schwartz@groupc.com.

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2 Comments

There are currently 2 Comments on Are Google’s Images a Security Threat, Invasion of Privacy or Useful Tool?. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. I think that you are spreading FUD.

    “Who is really interested in this footage except for burglars? Isn’t our privacy invaded enough already?”

    “what real purpose does it serve? What is to be gained from looking at the front of the neighbor’s house, or the hospital or school up the road, beyond a voyeuristic thrill, or possibly, something worse? Nothing.”

    Please! How much did you think before you decided that this technology has no legal use? Not more than a second I suppose. Or maybe you thought: this is a good linkbait. What about directions? You have to visit a foreign location and you would like to look around first, so that you don’t spend 2/3 of your time asking for directions.

    And even if the technology didn’t have any use: the photos were taken legally from public road. What next? Should we declare cameras “terrorist tools”?

    This article is either just spreading FUD, is a linkbait or both.

  2. How about Google House Map Images? Pics of the kitchen, bedroom and loo etc?
    All photographed in the best possible taste of course. Occupants suitable pixelated.
    :)

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