Almost every street in Wales is now on Google Street View. This controversial new technology enables users to view an actual image of almost any street in the UK, including landmarks such as Big Ben in London. There’s even a 3D feature which launched on April the first (it wasn’t an elaborate April Fool either), where you can see your street in 3D if you’ve got a pair of the special red/blue glasses.
Originally, only a few cities around the UK could be viewed via street view but since the eleventh of March over 99% of the UK’s roads are available to view online.
Street View has become a major talking point recently in the news as many strange happenings have been flagged by users, for example, huge flying pliers; see the image ( Google). Other finds include a giant pumpkin, a “ghost” in Cardiff Bay, a giant shark and Wally from ‘Where’s Wally?’.
After the initial novelty of finding your house (and some bizarre happenings) on street view and spotting local people and shops, you may ask what practical uses the software has?
Privacy advocates have objected the use of this technology as it has shown some people in compromising situations, for example, people not attending work when they should be and people engaging in illegal activities.
Regardless of this, Google continues to sing Street Views’ praises:
‘There are huge benefits from the Street View feature, ranging from the promotion of tourism, to helping people find local businesses or meeting points, assisting property buyers and prospective tenants.’
Even though Google claims that it is a useful tool and has procedures in place for dealing with privacy issues (there is a ‘report a problem’ button), it’s future is under threat in the EU.
At the moment, the EU allows Google to keep the images taken of European streets for a period of one year. The EU data-protection regulators plan to change this to six months. This would make it almost impossible for Google to upload new images. This is what Michael Jones; Google’s chief technology advocate had to say:
“I think we would consider whether we want to drive through Europe again, because it would make the expense so draining.”
So, there you go, make the most of Google Street View while you can, because maybe it’s not going to be around for much longer.