Luddites and landscapes
In the 70s when I was still living at home I opened the door one day to an opportunist salesman who showed my parents an aerial photo of our house, taken the previous week by a plane flying over the Hampshire countryside. My parents were absolutely thrilled with the photo and ordered several copies on the spot. I remember they were particularly excited that the picture showed clearly my father sitting in a deck chair on the lawn while my mother weeded the vegetable patch (a good example of the division of labour in our traditional British household…).
Over the next few weeks most of the inhabitants of the small village where we lived received similar knocks on the doors and the majority bought their own aerial photos. My parents framed theirs and hung it in the hallway and showed it to everyone who visited. My godparents, who lived in the same village, marveled at the fact they could clearly read the number plate on their car in the driveway on theirs.
I vividly recalled all this when the fuss about Google Street View hit the UK papers this week. Global watchdog Privacy International claimed that Google’s Street View could breach data protection laws if people’s faces are shown and the finger was pointed at Google as a sinister organization bent on invading personal privacy.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the people at Google are saints but I do think this another fuss about very little. I can’t help thinking it’s another attack at Google simply because the notion of ‘technology’ doing what has been done before, rather frightens a lot of people who equate it all with Big Brother in 1984. What Google is doing really is no different from those planes that flew over much of Britain in the 70s and I don’t remember anyone crying foul then. But suddenly when it’s a technology company, motives are assigned that make it all seem rather sinister.
I’m a huge fan of Google Maps and I absolutely love Google Street View and am rather disappointed that I can’t see anything of interest in their shot of my street. I’ve scanned it in vain for something that would show whether we were in fact at home on the day but to no avail! If you haven’t checked it out do so, it’s an amazing tool.