Thursday, May 31, 2007

Google Reaches Out To DV Community Before Releasing "Street View"

You have probably heard that Google recently released a new mapping tool called Street View - a feature that combines street-level 360-degree photos with Google's now well known 2-D online maps. It is my understanding that the images were created by a special truck that has driven roads in five United States cities. If you have seen them, they are VERY detailed. While on the one hand it is amazing technology, it is a bit disconcerting. While only public places are to be part of Street View, privacy issues and stalking come to mind -- it would not take much for a person to find your workplace or place of business using this tool.

And what about a domestic violence shelter?

Well, before releasing the new photo-enabled product to the world, Google reached out to the National Network to End Domestic Violence to make sure that the business listings didn't include women's shelters and created a way for local domestic violence groups to get photos of shelters removed if they appear on Street View.

Shelter and victim advocates can request an image be taken down via the site. The image will initially be blacked out, and after two weeks, it will disappear and simply not be part of the site's navigation, according to Cindy Southworth who heads the NNEDV's technology efforts, known as the Safety Net Project.

While that is a great idea, I guess you could still "identify" a blacked out image because you would recognize it was something you were not supposed to see and identify it that way? I am not sure. At any rate, it was wise that those involved in this technology at Google saw the downside before it went live and addressed it -- for the potential safety of those involved in family violence who are using shelters or other facilities that need safe locations.

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