A Dutch boy who was mugged and robbed last year by a pair of 24-year-old twin robbers just happened to find an image of the moment before the mugging occurred, in the Google Street View on Google Earth.
The boy contacted authorities, who in turn contacted Google, asking for a copy of the image without the faces blurred (Google’s system blurs faces so that they are not identifiable to the public when using Google Earth).
Said a statement issued by the Groningen police, “Police managed to track down the men, twins aged 24, thanks to Google Street View. As the faces were unrecognisable, police made contact with Google in the United States, and received the original photograph by mail in June. An investigator immediately recognised one of the suspects.”
While this story has a happy ending (except for the twins), it does cause one to wonder just how far we are moving towards a big brother state.
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Take, for example, this photo caught by the Google Street View camera:
Now, perhaps this is a cat burgler. Or perhaps it’s someone who locked themselves out of their house. Or someone just practicing their climbing skills.
If there are burglaries going on in the area, however, what do you think the odds are that this man is going to get hauled in for questioning?
That said, I think that the first big law suit – which could win – over invasion of privacy with respect to Google Earth, will be when a philandering spouse is caught by the other spouse because they happen to see a picture of the philanderer with their paramour on Google Earth, and a messy (and costly) divorce ensues. Or maybe when a wonderful birthday surprise is ruined because the intended giftee accidentally sees the person purchasing the gift during a moment of serendipitous Google Earth browsing.
In the meantime, the thing to start being very aware of is, Google Earth is watching you – nearly wherever you are, and whatever you are doing. And snapping it for posterity.
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