Google Street View: What purpose?

So Google Street View launched here in the UK a few days ago. It’s been controversial: all kinds of odd things have been found (see gallery at The Telegraph, and this rather hilarious sequence of a Street View driver being chased by the police for a traffic offense).

Privacy campaigners have been campaigning to get Street View shut down. That raises the interesting question: what useful purpose does Street View actually serve? How has Street View actually helped you? How has Street View benefitted you in your own every day life?

We all know about the privacy implications of Street View but I think I’ve yet to hear the benefits and the utilities. I hope that’s a discussion we’ll be able to have: without that discussion we can never really weigh up whether Street View is good for society.

I’ll start the list:

  • I wanted to send a letter the other day. The envelope was larger than A4 so I went to three local postboxes: none of them had a large enough slot to allow me to actually put the letter inside. I returned home and then using Street View was able to locate nearby postboxes and actually see whether they would be big enough to accept my letter. I was successful in completing this task with Street View so it probably saved me a lot of time visiting lots of postboxes and trying to find one large enough.

3 thoughts on “Google Street View: What purpose?

  1. The other day I had to go and pick up some friends, but I hadn’t been to their house before. I looked up the route on Google Maps, but getting the right road would have involved quite a bit of counting of streets as I drove (i.e. it was the 8th street on the left or something).

    Instead, I switched to Street View and was able to work out what to look for so I knew where to turn. A lot easier (and probably more likely to get the right street) than counting streets as they whizz past at 30mph.

  2. I haven’t yet found a use for it, not least since it’s a Flash overlay that doesn’t work for me. However, I still know the privacy argument is balderdash – by definition Street View is only views of public places, in which nobody has any viable expectation of privacy. Google have already gone beyond the call of duty in masking people’s faces.

  3. I don’t see what the big deal is. I find it wonderful that I, sitting here on American soil, can few your streets if one day I decent to visit. It also gives a glimpse of an areas safety if you’re a foreigner or traveling to an unknown destination. It’s really only useful for those w/o of a particular area. Does having my neighborhood benefit me? Absolutely not. Will it benefit someone that’d like to visit me one day? Probably.

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