The Google Maps Street View service just been launched here in Malaysia and everyone is excited about it. It lets you virtually stand in the middle of a road just about anywhere in the world and look around.
Never been to Paris? Want to see what your mum’s old house back in kampung looks like without even setting foot there? Punch in the address into Google Maps Street View and, there you have it, exactly where you told it to go. Once in Street View mode, you can use your mouse to look up and down, spin around, fast travel, zoom in on something, just as if you were there. You can see people on the street albeit they have no faces, houses, offices, cars and everything else that you can expect to see as if you were there.
Okay, now stop for a second and think what would be the bad thing about this? Ability to look around any places on earth as if you were there, how cool is that? But, what if this technology is put to bad use? For a criminal, what could be better than being able to case a target virtually? Any criminals can go to Google Maps, punch in an address and hop into Street View mode and they can virtually start casing any house for reconnaissance before breaking in for example. You can argue the Google Street View data isn’t up to date but how often you change your house appearance? All images within Street View are time-stamped at the top left bar and bottom of the image so anyone can know exactly when the image was taken.
So, ask yourself. If you were a bad guy, what can you do with Google Maps Street View?
- Locate entrances to buildings
- Determine locations of security cameras, gates, etc
- Find good hiding places such as in shrubs and other areas
- Find holes or weak spots in perimeter fences
- Locate utility boxes (power, water, gas, etc)
- See what make, model, and color of vehicle a building occupant or resident drives
- See if locks, guards, dogs, etc, are normally present
- Measure distances between objects (using Google Earth) to determine how quickly it would take to run or drive from one point to another.
If all the above were done by a criminal physically on site, it would raise a lot of suspicion from nearby neighbors. Granted, not all buildings or homes were captured by the Google Street Camera Capture Vans, building or home that have their own private roads for instances, won’t be captured hence will not be featured in Street View. Google maps is also supposed to automatically obscure (blur) text on buildings, license plates, peoples faces, etc, but even without those data, there is still a lot of useful information that is provided via Street View.
How can you prevent your home or business from being seen on Google Street View?
Now, this is the best part, Google being the giant they are used to only allowed certain VVVIPs to opt out from Street View but now everyone can request to further blurring of any image that features the user, their family, their car, or their home. This opting out process is so simple that you can do it only with a few steps. Below are how you can remove your house from Google Maps Street View:
- Go to Google Maps and enter your address
- Click on the Street View by clicking the little yellow person in the corner of the image window on the left side of the screen
- Make sure that the image of your home (or whatever you want blurred) is shown
- Click on the “Report a Problem” link in the bottom right corner of the image in the Street View pane on the right side of the screen
- Complete the form and click the “Submit” button
Since I for one not really keen on having my house featured and accessible in the virtual world so I’ve request for it to be blurred and Google emailed me back stating their compliance. When I checked back the image where my house used to be shown is now blurred. Thank you Google!.