Google and Its Global Street View Experiences

August 30, 2010

Special to Beyond Search

Technological innovative ideas have transformed our societies and lifestyles for better since time immemorial, also affecting the social norms and values. Such changes, as all changes do by default, go through a period of resistance, before they are finally embraced. The recent Google Street View controversy in Germany is a perfect example, and it has set out people and political parties to philosophize and finally polarize themselves in two opposite camps.

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Source for this great illustration: textually.org

The Spiegel.de article “Google Knows More about Us than the KGB, Stasi or Gestapo” delineates the various ideologies of the politicians, institutional leaders, thinkers and commentators of Germany, when Google is just a few weeks away from launching the street views of the 20 German cities on the Internet. The German government, criticized for its slow reaction, now wants to take a cautious approach, rejecting the proposed legislation against Google’s Street View, and instead wants to address geographically based Internet services in general.

This particular issue has spurred the debate to question and redefine the private and public spheres. There are some, who think that the streets are public property, or they belong to everyone, therefore anybody can look at or take snaps of any house or building. Some call the Google’s way as totalitarian, where everything is public, and nothing remains private. Google is also considered by a few as a monstrous player in the online world, with a desire for omnipotence, and most Germans feel the need of provisions in the legislation to deal with such kind of companies. Even though there is a small segment of society in Germany who think Street View could be useful, but the chunk of Germans want reform in the data protection law, making them more stringent, and ensuring people that their data was kept off the Internet.

Google’s Street View has been at a receiving end in South Korea also, where recently the police raided the Google’s offices to see whether the company broke local laws in its collection of data, especially over unauthorized Wi-Fi networks. Previously this Google venture has drawn flaks from many places in the U.S., European countries including the U.K., France, Italy, and Spain.

Leena Singh, India, August 30, 2010

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