Street View: it’s not the end of the world, people

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

The arrival in New Zealand of Google's Street View has left some internet users feeling like the proverbial goldfish in a bowl.

So, have you gone looking for your house on Google’s Street View yet?

There’s been so much debate about it online you’d almost think the sky was falling down. Or that the Google cameras were peeping in windows and through keyholes.

However, it’s really not that bad. The view is pretty much what any old pervert could have if they just wandered down your street.

I’ve seen comment on one message board about what an invasion of privacy it is because the person commenting said you could see the couch in their living room from the street if their front door was open.

Oh dear, I hate to tell you my dear internet commenter, but if that’s the case it’s not just the Google cameras you have to worry about.

Perhaps I’m just feeling a bit smug, since you can’t see my house (yay for very long driveways).

If you really are feeling a tad nervous about becoming the No 1 hit on a “weird stuff on Google Street View” kind of site, here are some hints:

  • Don’t pick your nose while at the letterbox.
  • Ensure you are wearing clothing every time you leave your house, even if it is just to pop down to the local dairy for a litre of milk.
  • Get the word “copyright” tattooed on your forehead, so that if by chance the Google cameras do catch you on the street doing something untoward, they can’t use the photos.
  • Become a hermit, rejecting society and instead becoming a housebound collector of bellybutton fluff and cats. Ha, they’ll never get you then.

And remember, if you really do happen to find you’ve been snapped and you’re not happy about it, you can ask Google to remove it: there’s a “report a concern” link on every Street View map.

Speaking of online mapping, Trade Me’s electronic mapping site, Smaps, quietly shut up shop at the start of this month after the auction site  decided to switch to Google Maps for pinpointing locations on property auctions.

It all makes perfectly good sense.  Mapping isn’t Trade Me’s main focus and Google has the money, grunt and determination to dominate the online mapping scene.

However, logic doesn’t always apply when it comes to conspiracy theorists: I spied one little conspiracy-loving pixie online who suggested it was all an evil Fairfax Media plot to close down all the businesses linked across the top of the Trade Me site, for example Stuff and Travelbug.

Why did he or she come up with this theory? I’m not sure. Perhaps I should come up with one of my own: Smaps didn’t shut down voluntarily, there was someone on the grassy knoll  …


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